House of Lords
Thursday 22 April 2021
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of London.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now begin. Some Members are here in the Chamber, others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. Oral Questions will now commence. Please can those asking supplementary questions keep them brief and confined to two points? I ask that Ministers’ answers are also in the same spirit.
Overseas Development Assistance: Budgets and Awards
My Lords, UK official development assistance—ODA—in 2019 and 2020 was: £15.2 billion, of which £11.8 billion was spent by the FCDO; and £14.5 billion, with £10.7 billion spent by the FCDO respectively. The full detailed breakdown of ODA spend for 2019 was published on 24 September in the Statistics on International Development. The final 2020 spend will be published in the same final UK aid spend statistics in the autumn of this year and will contain detailed breakdowns of the UK’s ODA spend for 2020, including an activity-level dataset.
My Lords, the Government have today published their planned expenditure for 2021-22. This Conservative Government won the 2019 election and their manifesto said:
“We will proudly maintain our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI on development”.
Today they are breaking that promise and breaking the law of the land. As a result, fewer girls will go to school, fewer vaccinations will cost lives and the UK will cut its support for conflict prevention by more than half. This cruel and callous plan shames our country. Will the Government do the right thing and put it to a vote?
My Lords, I first put on record that I note the sentiments of the noble Lord and the excellent work that he does in this area. However, I am sure that he, equally, will recognise that the UK economy is today 11.3% smaller than it was last year and undergoing its worst contraction for 300 years. The deficit this year is projected to be double its peak during the financial crisis. This does require difficult decisions, they have been taken and the Government have committed to restore the 0.7% as soon as the fiscal situation allows.
My Lords, many see the announcement of quite major cuts to the overseas development assistance budget as a tragic blow to the poorest and most marginalised people in the world. It seems that the Government have not even spared countries that have been ravaged by disease, war and poverty. How does the Minister answer these charges, at such a critical time of pandemic? Is not this investment in such countries money well spent?
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord’s final point. Any money spent in respect of alleviating the suffering of humanity, wherever that may be, is money well spent. On his challenge to me to justify this, I can point no further than to the support we have given throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to helping countries directly. We are also the people who put the architecture in place for the COVAX facility, which is now helping people with vaccinations globally, through a contribution of £548 million made by the UK.
My Lords, is it not an irony that the ODA budget was one of the most scrutinised in government, where outcomes are actually tracked by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact? Would that other government programmes had such scrutiny. Is it not a further irony that this budget has been subject to cuts, with the harsh effects that we have now seen, when it would already have fallen because of the contraction in the size of the economy? Will my noble friend confirm that that is the case, and by how much the budget would have fallen anyway before this action was taken?
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend’s final point. As I said in my original Answer in response to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, we saw a contraction in last year’s budget, where there was a real drop in the actual spend on ODA resulting from the economy contracting in the manner that it did. I also agree with my noble friend on the importance of scrutiny of ODA. That is why the Government have committed to working with ICAI on its valuable work, and that will continue to be the case.
My Lords, I declare my registered interests in malaria and neglected tropical diseases. Both these areas are already feeling the devastating effects of cuts in UK funding, for example the cessation of drug treatments as part of the highly successful Ascend NTD programme and the cut to UKRI funding for research at Imperial College into infectious diseases such as malaria. Where exactly does this leave the Government’s other manifesto commitment to
“lead the way in eradicating … malaria”?
My Lords, first, I know how much work the noble Baroness has put into fighting malaria. The noble Baroness and I have worked together, particularly on issues in this area that relate to the Commonwealth. We remain very much committed to research and technology. Indeed, there are specific allocations as well as allocations across the piece. On the issue of fighting various diseases, we remain very much committed to Gavi, CEPI and supporting the work of the World Health Organization in fighting any kind of disease, anywhere around the world.
My Lords, some of the relevant reductions in ODA are already available and are alarming. For example, Yemen has the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today and one would expect it to be spared the full effect of the cuts—but no. We know that in the year 2021-22 the UK plans to provide “at least £87 million”. Last year, 2020-21, £164 million was pledged and £207 million was dispersed. It is little wonder that Sir Mark Lowcock of the UN accused the Government of having decided to
“balance the books on the backs of the starving people of Yemen”.
My Lords, I know Sir Mark Lowcock well. I do not share his opinion. As the noble Lord himself has said, we remain very much committed to Yemen, both in terms of political settlement and the support we are providing through the UK aid pledge of £87 million for 2021-22.
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord would acknowledge the contributions the Government have made to various challenges that we face domestically. That has called for hard decisions, including looking at ODA. As I said earlier, we will look to restore 0.7% at the earliest opportunity.
My Lords, through our aid budget we are able to insure ourselves against mass migration, terrorism, pandemics and environmental destruction, as well as standing by our commitment to the world’s poor. Our cut to 0.5% from 0.7% is, as others have said, a double whammy alongside a shrinking economy. It also means that when we return to 0.7%, as the Government have committed, when the fiscal outlook improves there will be a windfall. What will the Minister spend that windfall on? Is it to go to many of the programmes that we are going to cut today, and does that not speak to short-termism at the expense of the British national interest?
My Lords, let me assure my noble friend that, while have had to make reductions in ODA, we will remain very much focused— as the WMS that we laid last night indicates—on key priorities, including the issues of humanitarian preparedness and climate change. Priorities for the future will be determined at that time, but there are projects that we are invested in for the long term and that will continue.
My Lords, the Minister mentioned scrutiny of the budget. The chair of the IDC, Sarah Champion, said yesterday:
“To say the statement”—
on planned spending—
“is scant on detail is an understatement.”
We are still awaiting guidance on country-by-country allocations. Can the Minister confirm exactly how much the cuts will affect the FCDO’s bilateral nutrition portfolios? If he is unable to answer, can he confirm when the House can expect a precise figure?
My Lords, like so many others I was taken aback to learn that the cuts were to be across the board and would include very recently established programmes. A careful assessment of priority programmes is of course time consuming, but does this mean that cutting assistance for starving and wounded Yemeni children is to be equated with, let us say, cuts to training videos? Do the cuts have to be so unthinking?
[Inaudible.]—the specific application of funding for a Covid response by sitting this as part of the now much-reduced health allocation. Is it, in effect, a double hit against basic health and survival nutrition programmes? Can my noble friend explain why the Covid response does not sit outside this allocation, as an exceptional response to a particular and exceptional humanitarian issue?
My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend will recognise that all countries, not just the United Kingdom but globally, have readjusted their own spend in-country to respond to Covid. It is a pandemic like no other that has gripped the modern world. It is therefore right that, when we look at our health outcomes and indeed our health spending, the Covid challenge cannot be ignored and is part and parcel of the integrated perspective in tackling health issues around the world.
My Lords, e-scooter rental trials are under way in 31 regions across England, with the purpose of assessing their safety, benefits and wider impacts. Trials in London will begin in May. Evidence gathered from all 32 trials will inform a decision about future legal sales of e-scooters. We have made no assessment of their use, or the number of offences or casualties caused by their use, at this stage; these issues will form part of our overall evaluation, later this year.
I understand that e-scooters are illegal in London, so how is it that they are terrorising our streets and pavements, endangering and imperilling other road users and those using pavements, particularly vulnerable older pedestrians, young families and the disabled, as well as the sight-impaired? The most recent statistics that I have seen include pedal bikes, covering e-bikes and e-scooters. In 2019, 379 pedestrians were hit by pedal cyclists; four were killed and 122 were seriously injured. The questions to my noble friend are: what is the current framework for enforcement? Who is monitoring the use of e-scooters to ensure that they are limited to private land outside London and what penalties are imposed for their illegal use?
My noble friend highlights the intricacies of the different micromobility interventions that we have, of which e-scooters is but one. She is right that the private use of e-scooters on public highways is illegal. A person can be fined up to £300 or get six points on their licence, and their e-scooter can be impounded, so we have tools at our disposal. Local enforcement activities are operational decisions for local police forces.
My Lords, barely a day passes when I am not passed, in my wheelchair, on my way to the House, by someone riding an e-scooter on the pavement. Given the danger that e-scooters pose to disabled people, particularly those with visual impairments, and given the tools at the disposal of the authorities, which my noble friend the Minister has just mentioned, what reassurance can she offer disabled people that those tools will be used?
My noble friend is right that it can be a frightening prospect, particularly for vulnerable people using the road or pavement, to be terrorised by e-scooter users. But that does not mean that we should not proceed with trials that will establish exactly what the risks are and build an evidence base, as to how they might be successfully used. I take note of his comments and will make sure that colleagues in the Home Office are aware of the concerns about enforcement against the use of e-scooters on pavements.
Is the Minister aware that Birmingham is one of the cities selected for the e-scooters trial, and that representatives of the blind and partially sighted community have expressed widespread concern about the number of these wretched things that have been abandoned in the city centre as a result of this trial? Does the Minister anticipate ditching her ministerial car to use one and can she see the Peers’ car park being packed with e-scooters at some time in the future? Finally, can she reflect on replacing the private car with these sorts of machines? We have heard it all before, so will e-scooters go the same way as the Sinclair C5 or Segway?
My Lords, the Government believe that e-scooters, if used in the right way, have great potential and could encourage modal shift away from the car. That is why we are doing these trials. I am delighted that Birmingham has decided to be forward-thinking, as I would expect of it, and to take up the opportunity for a trial. A lot goes into place when a trial is established; there is careful liaison with the local police and the operator. A key concern is to make sure that the scooters are put back where they belong, and we are very focused on that with each of the operators.
My Lords, will the Minister undertake to introduce lessons on the safe use of electric scooters as part of road safety education in schools, when the Government get to the point of making decisions on how they should be operated in the future? Can she also undertake that charities representing the disabled will be fully consulted before the Government make final decisions?
I can certainly guarantee the latter: we will be consulting all sorts of people, when we make the final decision on the trials. As I noted, the trials are in place. I cannot go into the hypothetical of what might happen if the Government might do something in the future. However, at the moment, users of the trials get instructions from the app about their use. There are stickers on the scooters reminding people to stay off the pavements and about the areas where the scooters can be used. Some operators have advanced training modules and incentives for users to complete them.
That is a very specific question, to which I probably cannot provide an answer. As the noble Lord knows, when it comes to road safety, there are always benefits and significant risks to be carefully looked at together. As we go through these trials, evidence will come forth, which we will look at and make a decision accordingly.
My Lords, it is not surprising that there have been so many serious injuries, because the combined weight of a miscreant and their scooter is over 100 kilos. They often break the speed limit at over 40 mph. Will the Government encourage local police forces to enforce the law, so that injuries and death can be avoided? Blind people are particularly vulnerable, of course.
My noble friend has identified for your Lordships’ House the difference between illegal use of private e-scooters on public roads and the trials. To date, there have been 2 million journeys on e-scooters within the trials. They have travelled the equivalent distance to the moon and back 13 times, which is 5 million kilometres. In all that time, there have been zero fatalities and zero people hospitalised as in-patients. There have been 11 injuries that could be called serious, but were not hospitalisation injuries, and 62 slight injuries, such as a sprained ankle—from 2 million journeys. The noble Lord mentioned that they can go up to 40 mph. Again, that is impossible for a trial e-scooter, which is limited to 15.5 mph. It is important that we continue with these trials, embrace technology and innovation, assess the risks and make the right decision.
My Lords, while this is expensive, it is sold without any guidance or rules. I spoke to 10 scooter owners on my street, over a few days. They were of various ages and all male. Not one was aware of the restriction on public use or had been issued advice on licensing or insurance at the time of purchase. I tried it in my back yard, and it is fun. Does the Minister agree, regardless of what she is saying and the assurance she has made, that ambiguities about the rules of their use remain? When can we expect a government direction to be made available to all retailers and manufacturers? Is it time for the Government to consider a public information campaign?
My Lords, given the dangers to pedestrians, particularly disabled pedestrians, how come there are scooters on the pavement within a few hundred yards of the Palace of Westminster and elsewhere, when it is against the law to be on the pavement anywhere? How come there have been so few prosecutions and that you are still allowed to buy and sell these scooters when, in the trial areas, you must use those provided by designated renters only?
I have probably addressed many of the issues that the noble Lord points out. I will take that point about enforcement and what more we can do back to the Home Office. E-scooters should never be on the pavement, as is the case with bicycles. The OECD’s international transport forum analysed various global studies of e-scooter safety and concluded that they are broadly equivalent to cycles. That may or may not be reassuring to the noble Lord.
Covid-19: Pupil Referral Units
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support they have given to students in Pupil Referral Units during the COVID-19 pandemic; and whether such students received the same treatment and prioritisation as those in other education settings.
My Lords, it will be no surprise to noble Lords that, on the 28th anniversary of the death of her son, Stephen Lawrence, the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, is here asking a Question on behalf of others, and I pay tribute to her for that. The Government recognise that education is a key protective factor for vulnerable students, and we therefore prioritise those in alternative provision. These settings remained open throughout the pandemic. Support included last summer’s £7.1 million alternative provision transition fund for year 11 pupils to make a successful transition to post-16 education, additional support through the workforce fund and, most recently, increased levels of funding for mass asymptomatic testing.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for talking about my son, Stephen. Since the pandemic, have pupils in pupil referral units been supported and prioritised, as those in other educational settings have? What is the impact on their education? Are they being monitored to return to mainstream school? As we know, the majority of people in pupil referral units are boys from the black community.
The Government were keen to ensure that alternative provision got additional support, so the Covid catch-up fund was triple the amount put into mainstream provision—£240 per pupil rather than £80. An additional £730 million has been put into the high-needs budget this year. The Government are acutely aware that in these settings are some of our most vulnerable young people. I also draw attention to the amazing staff who, during the pandemic, did much to protect them.
My Lords, I salute my noble friend Lady Lawrence on Stephen Lawrence Day. In a statement at its recent conference, the NEU said that it is a symptom of poverty and racism that the majority of those in pupil referral units are working-class and black students. Does the Minister agree that, as the pandemic has laid bare the extent of racial inequality, to begin to tackle this in education schools need resources to prevent exclusions, including smaller classes and engaging a flexible curriculum, and much more investment in pastoral systems?
My Lords, the cohort within alternative provision is incredibly mixed, and only just over 40% of those in such settings have been permanently excluded from mainstream education. Of those, 70.7% are white British, an overrepresentation, since 65.4% of the population is white British. However, the noble Baroness is right that 3% are of black-Caribbean heritage, while they represent only 1% of the population. Also, 3.7% in alternative provision are Asian, while 11.4% of pupils are of British-Asian heritage. Who is currently in alternative provision is a complex picture.
My Lords, we welcome the increased level of catch-up funding for pupil referral units, but will the Minister tell the House how the Government will ensure that the funding alleviates the pressure on staff and students that they faced during the pandemic?
My Lords, as mainstream state-funded provision, the staff costs are still paid regardless of attendance. The initial feedback is that the £7.1 million in transition funding, which enabled the staff to ensure that AP ends at 16 and there is a successful transition into post-16, was successful. We are looking at whether that can be extended for a further year.
My Lords, Stephen Lawrence’s memory should be for a blessing. I commend JW3’s Gateways programme, which provides integrated education and vocational provision for vulnerable young people and those experiencing mental health challenges within the Jewish community. Additionally, the trustees of JW3 should be congratulated, since they are in the process of establishing the first PRU in the Jewish community after consulting a wide range of Jewish schools in north-west London that are desperate for such a PRU to exist. Can the Minister consider how the department could assist the trustees to ensure that the new PRU becomes a centre of excellence?
My Lords, it is pleasing to hear of that kind of community response to these issues. Noble Lords may remember that there are, of course, non-maintained special schools, which apparently include some alternative provision. Many of those that remain are Jewish or Catholic in their religious ethos, but it is open to any community to open a registered provider within the independent sector. I will be pleased to write to my noble friend to outline how that might be possible within the state-funded alternative provision sector.
My Lords, PRUs cater for some of the most disadvantaged, disturbed and sometimes dangerous students. I taught in one for a while, and it was an unforgettable experience. The NEU found that there was a 17% rise in the number of pupils with education, health and care plans in pupil referral units last year. How are the Government ensuring that every child with an EHCP is being educated in the most appropriate setting for them?
My Lords, there is a very high level of those with not only EHCP but SEND generally. Around 80% end up in some form of alternative provision. The AP settings are part of the SEND review so that they can be considered together. We recognise that this is often not the most appropriate place for young people to end up, and we will look at how to change the dynamic that is operating.
My Lords, given the proven likelihood that PRUs can be highways to hopelessness, driving vulnerable young people towards long-term criminality, what is the Government’s assessment of why PRUs tend not to lead to successful educational and social outcomes? Also, given the opportunities of the Oasis Restore secure school, funded by the Ministry of Justice and opening in Medway next year, how involved will the Department for Education be in defining and inspecting the curriculum, as well as underpinning the well-being of all those educated in this new, remarkable school?
My Lords, our aspirations are the same for all young people, regardless of where they are being educated, but it is true that some young people who end up in alternative provision are, for instance, of secondary school age but with only a primary school reading age. Therefore, the classic traditional measures of educational performance must be looked at in terms of the progress which that young person can make. Many of the AP settings are acutely aware of the safeguarding of their students. Many work closely with the 18 violence reduction units to safeguard their pupils, and I will write to the noble Lord about the first secure school, which is within the Ministry of Justice’s provision.
My Lords, I add my tribute to my noble friend Lady Lawrence of Clarendon, for the great strength of character that she has shown following the callous murder of her son, and for the work that she has done in establishing the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.
Many pupil referral units have been forced to cut services for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils because of the severe reduction in funding following the drop in referrals during the pandemic. There is real concern in the sector that the increased level of recovery funding for PRUs announced by the Government is unlikely to be sufficient to meet the anticipated surge in demand. Does the Minister accept that the Government must heed those concerns and review the per-pupil element of the funding formula to ensure consistency and parity of funding with mainstream schools?
My Lords, obviously some young people are dual registered, so they are mainstream as well as AP funded. During the two formal lockdowns when schools were closed, the guidance from the department to local authorities was that they should pay the top-up element that they pay to these provisions. If a pupil referral unit that is still an LA-maintained unit is in financial difficulty, obviously it goes to its local authority; in relation to the other alternative provision—the just over 40% of the sector that is academised—I can assure the noble Lord that we are keeping a close watch on the financial situation of that provision.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that many children who end up in these units come from backgrounds where they do not have supportive families and people who are keen on education? Does the Minister also accept that these are the groups in which undiagnosed special educational needs—I remind the House of my declared interests in this field—do not get spotted until much later, if at all, and probably in the prison system? Do the Government have any process by which to pick up on the backlog of identification caused by the pandemic and the missed school experience?
My Lords, it is precisely for those reasons that we must consider AP in the context of the SEND review and work out why some conditions are not being spotted early enough. For instance, it seems that in an all-through setting—we now have some all-through schools—spotting it in early years or reception is vital to the educational progress of those young people. As I have outlined, we need to look at why so many young people with these needs are ending up in alternative provision and with late diagnosis of conditions.
Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014
My Lords, the Government are already conducting post-legislative scrutiny of Part 1 of the transparency of lobbying Act, which established the register. The post-legislative scrutiny was announced in 2020, and earlier this year Ministers met stakeholders to seek their views.
My Lords, I recall that during the passage of the transparency Bill I quoted Mr Cameron as saying:
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”—[Official Report, 13/1/14; col. 29.]
Will the Government now implement the recommendations from the Public Relations and Communications Association to strengthen the Act? As the Minister will know, I and my colleagues secured a promise to include special advisers when the legislation had settled down and to examine the case for the inclusion of in-house lobbyists. Given the widespread public perception of Tory sleaze, will the Government now take action to ensure that the Act recognises the danger of privileged access for their prominent political supporters?
My Lords, the noble Lord asks a wide range of questions there. In my contention, I believe that we have very high standards of integrity in public life in this country, and indeed in our Civil Service. But wherever there is the possibility of wrongdoing it should be investigated, and where it is uncovered it should be addressed. The Boardman review has been announced, and that work will be taken into account in any relevant post-legislative scrutiny work that is continuing.
I am back. On 13 January 2014, an amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, my noble friend Lady Royall and me would have extended the lobbying Bill to include in-house lobbyists and so cover, for example, David Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of Greensill. His then Government defeated that amendment by 185 to 218—two Not-Contents, of course, being from the noble Lords, Lord True and Lord Tyler. In the light of recent events, will the Minister now support a full register of all professional lobbyists? Will he take it from me that we will judge the forthcoming Queen’s Speech on whether it includes measures to outlaw the invidious, secret, back-channel lobbying that is so undermining of good governance?
My Lords, I make a practice at this Dispatch Box of not throwing stones, and I think everyone in every party should be cautious about throwing stones. In response to what the noble Baroness said—I am sorry that she is in her place, but it is good to see her—on the question of in-house lobbyists, it is true that the Government did not pursue that in 2014. There are issues involved. It obviously will be considered currently. Such an approach would require thousands of businesses, charities, NGOs and trade bodies to pay a registration fee of £1,000 a year to write or speak to Ministers. That could be detrimental to the public interest, but I note what the noble Baroness says.
My Lords, I take my share of responsibility for the last Act. It is now clear that we have to extend further the coverage of lobbying activities. Will the Minister accept that these should include greater transparency for political think tanks, including full declaration of their sources of funding? As he will know, Conservative MPs are concerned about the Runnymede Trust. Others of us are concerned about the Institute of Economic Affairs and Policy Exchange, for example, which declare on their websites their access to Ministers and their influence over government policy.
My Lords, the noble Lord makes a further suggestion. Since 2010, with the help of the party opposite, we have brought in a statutory registration of consultant lobbyists and a new routine of regular government transparency publications on spending, salaries, contracts and tenders. We are implementing the recommendations of the Boardman review on procurement. We have banned the practice under previous Governments of quangos hiring lobbyists to lobby the Government. We have made sure that taxpayer-funded government grants are not used for lobbying purposes and have provided for greater transparency on trade unions. We have done a number of things. That does not mean that more may not need to be done. I accept that work is ongoing to consider these matters.
Does my noble friend the Minister agree that there is a much simpler solution to the lobbying problem than that being discussed? What is being discussed would require a written definition of what constitutes lobbying or who is or is not a lobbyist, which can lead only to endless arguments about interpretation. Is not the neatest and most effective solution to require all civil servants, serving Ministers and spads formally to log all and any lobbying approaches, however informal, and prescribe that they must respond by requiring the lobbyist to “put it in writing”? No one will ever stop people trying to lobby, so the onus should be on the recipient of any lobbying to respond in the correct manner.
My Lords, I agree that transparency is important; that has been a standard across the House. Ministers’ and Permanent Secretaries’ appointments are published. Obviously, there is ongoing review of this work, not only by the Government but by a number of parliamentary committees. I am sure what my noble friend said will be noted.
My Lords, while it is right to constrain the power of lobbyists and former Ministers renting themselves out, the real cancer at the heart of our politics is corporate money and power, which fund political parties and legislators to gain unfair advantage in public policy-making. Is the Minister concerned? If so, what legislation will he propose?
My Lords, my question complements that of my noble friend Lord Grade. Given that the 2014 Act did not increase transparency and was focused not on lobbying but on lobbyists—the people, not the activity—will my noble friend commit to looking at ways to ensure that details of all representations made to government on Bills and ministerial policies are released at the same time that those Bills and policies are published?
Again, my Lords, the noble Lord raises a specific point, as have a couple of other noble Lords who have spoken. I repeat that the Government have significantly increased transparency. There is post-legislative scrutiny of the Act and the Government will be going further to review and improve business appointment rules and increase transparency in procurement. We need to maintain high standards in public life—I agree with all noble Lords who have spoken.
My Lords, my noble friend will recall that I took charge in the Commons of the passage of the transparency of lobbying et cetera Act. In my view it was wrong then and is wrong now to include in-house lobbyists, because many thousands of people working in companies will have to register simply to speak on behalf of their own company.
My noble friends Lord Grade and Lord Norton of Louth have it right. There has never been a sufficient level of openness about who Ministers receive lobbying from, or indeed receive any communication from. That should be published. It was not sufficient then and it is not sufficient now.
My noble friend puts his finger on a key issue that I alluded to in my reply to the noble Baroness opposite, in terms of the scale of the undertaking that would be required. I agree—government publishes data on meetings between Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and external interests. Regulation must balance the need for transparency on third-party lobbyists while not preventing engagement by the voluntary and private sector. These issues require and will receive very careful consideration. I can assure all noble Lords that the matter of integrity in public life is something that this Government take profoundly seriously.
Arrangement of Business
Announcement of Recess Dates
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Chief Whip, I thought this would be a convenient time to confirm the plan for the Summer Recess. Subject as is always the case to the progress of business, we will rise for the summer in the conclusion of proceedings on Thursday 22 July and return on Monday 6 September. A copy of these dates will be made available in the Royal Gallery. Further recess dates will be confirmed in due course.
Russia: Alexei Navalny
Private Notice Question
My Lords, on 19 April the Foreign Secretary underlined that Russia is responsible for Alexei Navalny’s deteriorating health, and that Mr Navalny must be given immediate access to independent medical care and released from his politically motivated detention. We continue to raise Mr Navalny’s case regularly with Russia, most recently through the British embassy in Moscow on 15 April, and to work with partners to hold Russia to account in multilateral fora, including via the OPCW.
I thank the Minister for that Answer but let us be clear what is happening here: Vladimir Putin is directing the slow murder of his main rival as the world looks on. This is not simply an internal matter. The Russian troops amassed on the Ukraine border point to the consequences of letting Putin think he can trample on the rule of law without comeback. Will the Government undertake to increase the number of individuals—Putin’s cronies—being sanctioned by the UK every day until Mr Navalny is released?
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. It is a rather perverse situation, with the ruling of 2 February meaning that the very person fighting for democratic rights, who was himself a victim of a direct attack by the Russian state, is now being imprisoned. I agree about increasing pressure and we are doing just that bilaterally and through multilateral fora. On the specific issue of sanctions, I cannot speculate on the future but, as the noble Lord will acknowledge, we have already taken quite specific sanctions against six individuals and an institution because of the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
My Lords, Alexei Navalny’s life is in danger for his campaign against corruption. Up to half of all money laundered out of Russia is still done through the United Kingdom. We have a responsibility, yet there has been no action on golden visas nor powers to sanction corrupt officials and, three years after the Salisbury attack, the Government have failed to fully implement any of the recommendations set out in the Russia report. Also, is the Minister not concerned that, from when David Cameron became leader of his party, almost £5 million has been received by it in Russian-linked donations?
My Lords, as the noble Lord is aware, we are taking quite specific steps to fight corruption and illicit finance. Indeed, he will be aware that we are in the process of looking at broadening the sanctions application to include illicit financing and corruption. On the specific issue of the Russia report, among other steps, I assure him that we will introduce new legislation to provide Security Service and law enforcement agencies with the tools that they need to tackle the evolving threat. On visas, we are reviewing all tier 1 visas granted before 5 April 2015.
My Lords, as the noble Baroness will be aware, the sanctions that have already been imposed on the individuals that I mentioned in my response to an earlier question were done in conjunction with our European Union partners. We continue to sustain those sanctions. I think the fact that Russia has taken note and looks to react to this shows the effectiveness of those tools. I repeat once again, and I know the noble Baroness agrees, that whatever we do with sanctions we must continue to work with our close allies, including those in the EU.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walney, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. I want to ask a question that is a variant of the one that I asked on Monday about Hong Kong: what practical and effective steps can the United Kingdom take, both alone and with our allies, to ensure that, first, Mr Navalny is not murdered or left to die in prison; secondly, that Russia’s nascent democracy is not snuffed out; and, thirdly, that the Russian Government are not tempted to distract from their domestic, political and economic problems by foreign adventures calculated to destabilise their neighbours?
My Lords, my noble and learned friend raises some important points. I assure him that the United Kingdom is taking actions quite directly, including, as I have alluded to, with sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans. We are acting with our key partners to ensure that a clear message is sent to the Russian state, most recently on 19 April. The Foreign Secretary issued a statement asking for the immediate release of Mr Navalny from detention. We are working through key multilateral organisations. The UK led a G7 statement. Today we are awaiting statements due to be issued as a response at the OCPW. There are OSCE statements today on Mr Navalny and media freedom, and a European human rights ambassadors statement today covering this issue.
My Lords, will the Minister spell out in detail what new steps are being taken to stop money laundering from Russia through London? That, more than anything, will probably hit hardest those who need to have their minds focused by this outrageous issue.
My Lords, I have already detailed some of the steps that we are taking and will continue to take. I agree with the noble Lord that far too much of such money comes through the City of London, and we must seek to ensure the robustness of our regime so that such illicit finance and money does not pass through our country’s capital.
My Lords, while I acknowledge, as we must, that Mr Navalny is a political prisoner, does the Minister none the less accept the relevance of the proposition that
“the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country”?—[Official Report, Commons, 20/7/1910; col. 1354]
If so, he will be in very good company; it was first articulated by Winston Churchill in July 1910.
My Lords, following the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Walney, when he asked his Question, why do we not take sanctions against a given number of people every week until Navalny is released from his appalling jail? Although we know that the Russians veto things at the Security Council, that is no reason for not having an internationally publicised debate on this issue.
My Lords, on my noble friend’s second point, we are doing just that, if not necessarily at the UN Security Council. I mentioned the OPCW earlier. There is a specific debate with the Russians, in a constructive fashion, saying: “There was a poisoning of Mr Navalny. Answer the case.” The Russians have not been forthcoming. On the issue of sanctions every day or what may happen in future, there are good reasons why we do not speculate, one of which is that an evidential threshold needs to be met. Anyone or any institution that is sanctioned has the right to appeal, and we need to ensure that the sanctions we impose are robust.
My Lords, UN human rights experts have urged Moscow to let Alexei Navalny be medically evaluated abroad. Can the Minister confirm what discussions are being held with the United Nations to ensure that all pressure is put on Moscow to allow an external medical evaluation to take place?
My Lords, there are two points in response to the noble Baroness’s question. First, we are calling for that kind of independent access to make that medical assessment with our key partners, within the context of our various representative bodies, such as the UN and the OPCW, as I suggested. Secondly, Russia is part and parcel of the Security Council. It is a P5 member. It has signed up to its responsibilities. It now needs to be seen not just to act but to act in this instance.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked some very good questions and the Minister outlined some measures that may be taken. What is the timetable for undertaking the measures he outlined? Secondly, one person’s political prisoner is not necessarily another’s. Can the Government have a quiet word with the Russians and point out that it is not a particularly good image if people die in custody, as I found out when I served in the European Parliament and Bobby Sands died?
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, it was particularly interesting to hear the Russian Ambassador on UK media saying that Russia would do its utmost to ensure that that would not happen. On the specifics of the earlier question, I acknowledge that all the questions I get from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, are extremely good and challenging and that is the way it should be. I alluded to the fact that we have taken specific actions, including the review of tier 1. In pointing to the future, I have said that there will be specific legislation and when that is timetabled I will, of course, share that with my noble friend and your Lordships’ House.
My Lords, the mistreatment of Alexei Navalny on what appear to be trumped up charges ironically mirrors the treatment of Mr Magnitsky himself, after whom the sanctions are named, and could end with the same result. Resolute and firm action is required in conjunction with our many democratic allies throughout the world. Can the Minister confirm that such discussions are taking place and that the message is given to Russia in no uncertain terms that such behaviour has consequences?
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord and assure him that such discussions are taking place. We have seen co-ordination through the OSCE, work through the G7 and today at NATO there was a statement on a related subject: the expulsions by the Czech Republic of the Russian diplomats implicated in actions there. The individuals identified by the Czech Republic are the very same ones who carried out the Salisbury attack, so there is a lot of co-ordination.
Let us not forget that it is not just the international community. We have seen protests in 100 cities across Russia. The protests continue to be suppressed. We also need to stand up for the people of Russia: they are also asking for Alexei Navalny to be released. It is about time the Russians listened not only to the international community but to their own citizens.
My Lords, all supplementary questions have been asked.
Arrangement of Business
Highgate Cemetery Bill [HL]
Bill passed and sent to the Commons.
Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill
Order of Commitment Discharged
My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to speak in Committee. Manuscript amendments are not possible at present. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill
Order of Commitment Discharged
My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to speak in Committee. Manuscript amendments are not possible at present. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill
Order of Commitment Discharged
My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to speak in Committee. Manuscript amendments are not possible at present. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill
Forensic Science Regulator Bill
I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. In moving this Motion, I wish to make a few brief remarks. I would like to place on record my thanks to my good friend the honourable Member for Bristol North West in the other place, Mr Darren Jones, for skilfully steering this Bill through the House of Commons and asking me to take the Bill up in your Lordships’ House. I also want to thank Dr Gillian Tully, the recently outgoing Forensic Science Regulator, for understanding that this Bill was necessary to support the regulator and place them on a statutory basis. I also want to pay tribute to both the Science and Technology Committee of this House and of the Commons for pushing for this change. I thank the Government, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, for recognising a problem and supporting this important measure.
I also thank all noble Lords for not being tempted to table amendments to make a good Bill an even better Bill. As we all know, Private Member’s Bills risk falling due to the pressures of time. Clearly, more will need to be done in this area, but this Bill is a big step forward. It will make a real difference in ensuring that the highest standards are in place across forensic science services. As we debated during Second Reading, it is important for victims, defendants and the community to ensure that forensic science of the highest standard helps everybody receive the justice that they deserve.
Arrangement of Business
National Security and Investment Bill
My Lords, I start by expressing my gratitude to noble Lords from across the whole House for their contributions to the passage of the Bill. In particular, I thank my noble friends Lord Grimstone and Lady Bloomfield for their steadfast help, guidance and support throughout its passage. I also place on record my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town—my commiserations on the results of the Lord Speaker election—and to the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester and Lord Rooker, for their constructive attitude and helpful challenges from the Opposition Front Bench throughout the passage of the Bill. I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones, for their customary ability to ask the most difficult questions at totally wrong times during the passage of the Bill.
It would also be remiss of me not to thank some of my noble friends who have taken a particular interest in ensuring that we get the Bill right. I am thinking in particular of my noble friends Lord Lansley, Lady Noakes, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, Lord Leigh of Hurley, Lord Vaizey of Didcot, Lady McIntosh and others.
Noble Lords from across the House have rightly held the Government’s feet to the fire in a number of areas, in the finest traditions of this House, and I can honestly say that the Bill leaves the House in a better state as a result of that scrutiny. I extend my particular thanks to parliamentary counsel for their exemplary drafting and to the clerks and all the House authorities for shepherding us through these exceptional times. The smoothness with which proceedings flow masks the sometimes immense and exceptional logistical operation going on behind the scenes.
I also extend my thanks to the officials and lawyers within my department, who have worked tirelessly on the drafting and subsequent passage of the Bill, for their immense patience in explaining some of the difficult concepts to a mere simpleton such as myself. In particular, I thank Dr Sarah Mackintosh, Mike Penry, Danny McCarthy, Arash Abzarian, Alex Midgley and George Kokkinos, who embarked on their NSI journey before I was even a Minister in this department. In my view, they act in the finest traditions of our civil servants, and I am very grateful to them for all their expert help, support and guidance. Finally, I thank the wonderful Melissa Craig, in my private office, and the immense Yasmin Kalhori in the Whips’ Office, who is ever-helpful in feeding forward suggested speaking notes—not all of which I can use in this House.
I said at Second Reading:
“This Bill will keep the British people safe.”—[Official Report, 4/2/21; col. 2335.]
In the meantime, we have had lengthy discussions on fishing, lectures to insolvency practitioners and—in one memorable case—the makeup of a particularly hawkish rugby front row. These discussions and others have made me certain that the Bill will go a long way in ensuring that the UK’s defences are fighting fit, both now and long into the future.
I am heartened that, in the finest traditions of this House, all parties have recognised the Bill’s importance, even if we have disagreed on some of the detail. In that sense, it has genuinely been a cross-party effort, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have participated. I beg to move.
From these Benches, it is a pleasure to thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, for the way that he handled this important Bill and steered it through your Lordships’ House, so ably supported by the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield. At the end of a long season and Session, it is very rewarding to examine the legislation of the noble Lord, who, with his team, engaged so positively with us and the House. This resulted in real and productive improvements to the Bill—especially on new public guidance, the expert panel and turnaround times, among other features, being included in the annual report.
I am grateful to the Bill team, ably led by Mike Penry, and the department, for their exemplary attention and courtesy shown to us at all times. The broadcasting team were excellent and managed our hybrid proceedings throughout without a hitch. I am also grateful to my lead and boss on the Bill, my noble friend and colleague Lady Hayter, who was disappointed that she could not see it through all its stages to the conclusion.
I would not have been able to step up to the grade without the support my very able legislative assistant in our office, Dan Harris, who, with Ellie Robson, was able to guide me over the hurdles, draft our amendments and take the negotiations with the Public Bill Office completely out of my clumsy hands. I am very grateful to them.
Our team is especially grateful also for assistance that came from outside the House—from the Russell group of universities, the CBI and the Wellcome Trust, as well as the Henry Royce Institute, the BioIndustry Association, the Law Society and the Law Society of Scotland. They have all provided insights and appreciation of the Bill’s likely workings and omissions, which proved invaluable to our attention within the House.
A clear feature of the Bill is how co-operatively the Minister and his team have worked with us and the House throughout, to understand and accommodate the pertinent issues in the Bill from our perspective. Of course, there is one clear divergence of opinion between the House and the Government, which we are sending to the Commons for their consideration. For the achievement of that task, I am very grateful to the front row team, marshalled into a complete scrum by our admiral, my noble friend Lord West, at roll call on Report. I am also grateful to my noble friend and colleague Lord Rooker, who guested as a heavyweight on the Front Bench for the occasion. It is very good to see him back in the Chamber and back to good health.
I trust that the positive engagement from across the House—including the Lib Dem and Conservative Benches —and the commitment shown by all noble Lords to a successful outcome, will give the Bill a fair wind to find safe harbour in the Commons.
My Lords, there has never been any doubt that the Bill’s aims were supported across the whole of the House, and that has added to the quality of the debate from the start. That said, actually delivering a balanced approach to protecting the UK’s security, while ensuring that the necessary flow of investment will not be interrupted, will be a challenge. The debates that we have had have underlined the subtlety of that challenge.
However, the stakes are high. The UK has arguably been one of the most open economies in the world, and it is clear that this openness has let through some transactions that, in retrospect, should not have been permitted. The onus is now on the Government to act in such cases.
The skeletal nature of the Bill has informed quite a lot of the debate that we have had, and it is clear that, from the outset, the Government have sought to keep their options open. To my mind, phrases such as “We will take things on a case-by-case basis” have popped up too often. So I hope that, over time, there will be fewer “case-by-cases” and fewer exceptions—because people need clarity, and that clarity needs to be supported by strong communication. People need to understand how the decisions will be made. If this unit acts as a black box, that will not happen, and investment will definitely be discouraged.
Finally, before the long thank-yous, I apologise for coming back to the amendment on Report that set out the importance of climate change with respect to national security. I will say—with all due respect—that the Minister grudgingly went along with the thesis, but only to the minimum extent necessary. Perhaps his natural combativeness prevented him really appraising or acknowledging the risk.
Therefore, before the Minister moves from this Bill to his next important project, I recommend that he reads an op-ed in Politico by the NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, which came out today. In it, he says that it is clear that climate change
“is making the world a more dangerous place”,
“rising sea levels and more extreme weather … increasing competition for scarce resources and fueling tensions and conflict.”
“Climate change threatens global security”.
Please note, Minister. That should be reflected in the activities of the new unit.
Of course, one outstanding issue between us remains, symbolised by the flankers here—the noble Lords, Lord West and Lord Campbell—and I hope that the Minister and the Secretary of State will see some sense on that. Otherwise we will be back for ping-pong.
That said, the passage of this Bill has been efficient, and, as the Minister has said, the overall quality of the Bill has been improved through that process. I commend the openness of the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, and the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, who has shown his characteristic empathy in the process. The noble Lord listed the very considerable Bill team and all the support that has delivered the Bill, and I second, indeed third, that, because without them there would certainly be no Bill—and, of course, without many of them there would be no unit to make the Bill a reality.
I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, for their engagement in this process, and I thank particularly the Members opposite. There are two representatives of them here—the noble Lords, Lord Leigh and Lord Lansley—but there are others, such as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. They must have added to the pressure that the Minister feels: when the noises are coming from behind as well as in front, it makes it harder to resist.
As for the home team, I hope that my colleagues will not mind if I single out, first, Sarah Pughe in the Lib Dem legislative team, who has done a magnificent job supporting us. Among Members, I would mention the noble Baronesses, Lady Bowles, Lady Berkhamsted, Lady Northover and Lady Smith of Newnham, the noble Lords, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, Lord McNally and Lord Purvis of Tweed, and, last but no means least, my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, who has been here in support. I hope that we do not have to come back—I hope the Government see sense on that amendment. That said, the Bill leaves this House in a much better state than it arrived in.
My Lords, from the Cross Benches I join previous speakers in thanking all the House of Lords officials and the Bill team.
As we have previously outlined, the Bill has a valid and important principle at its heart: the protection of national security and the lessening of economic interference in industrial control by hostile actors. Nobody would disagree with that intention, and the business community is no different. The CBI, of which I am president, supports those principles and stands ready to help make a success of the new regime. We have heard from a wide range of businesses likely to engage with the regime, many of which have complex international supply and value chains and all of which recognise the need for such regimes and already comply with counterpart regimes across the world.
However, to make a success of such a regime in a manner that reflects the approach of many of our international counterparts, the concerns of a wide subsection of the business community should continue to be heard. As I have noted previously, the extra- territoriality of the Bill, combined with no set de minimis function, could inadvertently lead to a real rise in bureaucracy at micro level and slow inward investment at macro level, so it is critical that the Government continue to engage with business and industry on the practical application of the regime. The fast-track processes and expert advisory panels that have been discussed are a very welcome move. The amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, on future reporting on the progress of the regime and on omitting the 15% threshold for significant control are also welcome.
Business welcomes the Bill, and I give credit to many noble Lords who have taken part, including the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson —I could go on. The more detailed reporting requirements provide more clarity on the average processing or decision time for notifications, whether mandatory or voluntary. Business has been concerned about the transparency of the statutory process, so we welcome the Government’s reflection of that in the Bill. Moreover, the removal of the 15% threshold for significant control is welcome, as, while such a percentage may represent a critical investment in other areas, it is unsuitable when applied to significant control more widely.
Looking ahead, the spirit of dialogue that has allowed such amendments to be moved should continue to ensure that both business and government are equipped to make a success of the regime. This Bill shows the House of Lords at its best: it has greater strength by far in depth and breadth of world-class expertise than any other Chamber in the world. This Bill has seen this skill applied on a cross-party basis, enabling this House to play its role as a revising Chamber to help change legislation for the better. This can only happen, however, if the Government are prepared to listen—which they have. We are grateful to the Government, and long may the spirit of collaboration continue.
I thank noble Lords for their kind words and renewed support for the Bill. Empathy is not something I normally get accused of—I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Fox, did not have his tongue in his cheek, so I will take that as a compliment. As I said earlier, there has been genuine cross-party enthusiasm for the Bill and, with the exception of one important detail, I have been heartened by the House’s desire to get it on the statute book. The debate has been excellent and shows the finest traditions of this Chamber.
I will certainly take up the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for my considerable reading list. My in-tray is very high at the moment, but I will look at the article he referred to, and I am sure that it will enhance my understanding of the subject. For a final time, therefore, I beg to move.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.
Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2021
Motion to Approve
My Lords, this Government are committed to taking all necessary steps to protect the people of this country. Tackling terrorism in all its guises is a key element of that mission. The threat level in the UK, which is set by the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, remains at “substantial”. This means that a terrorist attack in our country is likely.
The constantly evolving nature of terrorism means that we continuously consider whether new action is necessary to ensure that our response is adapted to the threat picture. There are growing concerns about the spread of extremist ideologies, such as white supremacism, and their pernicious influence, particularly on children and young people. The danger posed by terrorist organisations varies from one group to another. There are those that recruit, radicalise, promote and encourage terrorism as well as those that prepare and commit terrible acts of violence against innocent members of the public.
In the internet age, extremist and terrorist groups can more easily and rapidly influence those vulnerable to their recruitment tactics. At the click of a button, they can spread their abhorrent world views to other groups in different countries, encouraging them to take up their mantle and engage in violence. We have a duty to our allies, as well as to our own people, to tackle those groups that inspire and co-ordinate international terror. While we can never entirely eliminate the threat from terrorism, we will always do all we can to minimise the danger it poses and keep our public safe.
Some 76 international terrorist organisations are currently proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000. Thanks to the dedication, courage and skill of counterterrorism policing and our security and intelligence services, most of these groups have never carried out a successful attack on UK soil. Proscription is a powerful tool for degrading terrorist organisations, as noble Lords know.
The groups we now propose to add to the list of terrorist organisations, amending Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000, are Atomwaffen Division, or AWD, and its alias, National Socialist Order, or NSO. AWD is a predominately US-based white supremacist group active under that guise between 2015 and 2020. NSO is the alias of AWD, has claimed to be AWD’s successor group and remains active. The group’s actions, which seek to divide communities and stir up hatred, are entirely contrary to the interests of our nation.
Given the wide-ranging impact of these powers, the Home Secretary exercises her power to proscribe only after thoroughly reviewing the available evidence on an organisation. This includes open-source material, intelligence material and advice that reflects consultation across government, including with the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The cross-government Proscription Review Group supports the Home Secretary in her decision-making process. Her decision to proscribe is taken only after great care and consideration of the particular case, and it is appropriate that it must be approved by both Houses.
Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Home Secretary believes that AWD, including through the activities of its alias, NSO, is concerned in terrorism and the discretionary factors weigh in favour of proscription. Although, as noble Lords will know, I cannot comment on specific intelligence, I can provide the House with a summary of the group’s activities. AWD celebrates a collection of noxious essays that advocate the use of violence to bring about a fascist, white ethnostate by initiating the collapse of modern society by means of a race war. This ideology has become known as “accelerationism”. AWD’s online propaganda has encouraged and promoted terrorist acts, and this content likely remains influential among accelerationist terrorist groups. We know that AWD has inspired, at least in part, several loosely affiliated franchise groups abroad, including Feuerkrieg Division, which was proscribed in 2020.
In March 2020, AWD claimed that it had disbanded following pressure from US law enforcement agencies. In July 2020, NSO announced itself online as AWD’s successor. NSO adheres to the same abhorrent ideology and has similar accelerationist aims as it did when it was called AWD. Under the name NSO, the organisation has publicly dedicated itself to bringing about white- power Governments “by any means necessary”, and it is the Government’s belief that it is almost certain that “any means necessary” is intended to be understood as endorsing violence.
Our strategy to combat terrorism looks at the full spectrum of activity. It is absolutely right that this includes confronting, square on, the threat from groups who call for violence and mass murder, and who unlawfully glorify horrific terrorist acts, so that they are prevented from continuing to stir up hatred. When groups without a physical presence in the UK are proscribed, particularly groups such as AWD which have an established online presence, it is important to consider the wider impact that proscription has. By proscribing white supremacist, accelerationist terrorist groups with like-minded ideologies, such as Sonnenkrieg Division, Feuerkrieg Division and Atomwaffen Division, we underline our commitment to ensuring that the UK is a hostile environment for individuals involved in white supremacist or accelerationist terrorism.
Our objective is to ensure that there are no safe spaces online for terrorists to promote or share their extreme views. In proscribing AWD and NSO, we send a clear signal that the dissemination of the group’s online propaganda is unacceptable. The Home Office continues to work closely with law enforcement, our international partners and tech companies, including through the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, also known as GIFCT, to collaboratively tackle the spread of terrorist content online. We know that proscription of groups helps tech companies to better tackle terrorist material on their platforms. I believe that there is a strong case for the Government to proscribe AWD and list NSO as an alias. It will build upon the robust action the Government have already taken by proscribing National Action, Sonnenkrieg Division and Feuerkrieg Division.
Our message is clear: we will always take every possible action to counter the threat from those who hate the values that we cherish. The safety and security of the public is our number one priority, and I commend this order to the House.
My Lords, my comments will be brief. As a law officer, I had to take an interest and advise on many aspects of terrorism matters. We are debating a very narrow order, otherwise I would have raised questions following the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ report as far back as 2009-10 on special advocates, who I appointed for the first time. I chose them very carefully. The Joint Committee was critical of their ability to operate properly. I would have asked for an update, but I presume that they are still there and there will be another occasion when I can seek to do this.
The noble Baroness carefully spelled out the objects of the order, and I am grateful to her. I welcome the updating of the names of organisations from which we are in danger. If we are to have an efficient system of proscription, it is important that it is, first, speedily updated; secondly, relevant and accurate as far as names and descriptions are concerned; and lastly, achieves the object of being preventive. It is the preventive nature of the order that I particularly welcome.
We are referring now to three organisations named in accordance with Section 3 of the Terrorism Act. Some 24 orders have been laid already, two of them in 2019, and in accordance with Section 3, those we wish to add are named. I deliberately will not give the advantage of further publicity to the activities of the one organisation that caught my eye in particular, Sonnenkrieg Division. We are dealing with the activities of such organisations today. Therefore, I will not give any additional publicity to the matters that have already been set out. I welcome the order very much and I support it.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this order, but I confess to being somewhat confused. Before I get on to that, I pay tribute the work that our security services and police do to keep us safe in the face of a substantial threat.
On 27 February 2020, the Government brought forward a similar order, proscribing the white supremacist group Sonnenkrieg Division—Sonnenkrieg means “sun war” in German—or SKD. My confusion is because SKD is apparently the British branch of Atomwaffen Division—Atomwaffen means “nuclear weapons” in German—which is based in the southern United States and is heavily influenced by extremist Islamist ideology in that it encourages neo-Nazis to kill and die for the cause. As I said almost 14 months ago in this House, the overlap between extremist Islamists, who advocate the violent overthrow of democracy and liberal values, and neo-Nazis is worrying. One of Atomwaffen Division’s followers apparently sees ISIL as preferable to multi- culturalism and liberal values.
As the Minister said, it recruits young people and has been active on university campuses in the United States. Some members of the British SKD convicted of terrorism offences were teenagers. Will the Minister explain why the Government are only now proscribing an organisation—Atomwaffen Division—that even Wikipedia says is also known as National Socialist Order, whose British branch was proscribed 14 months ago?
In the Explanatory Memorandum, the Government say that an instrument such as this
“which imposes duties that are significantly more onerous than before should not usually be brought into force earlier than 21 days after it is made … However, any significant delay between the laying and coming into force of the Order would alert the organisation to its impending proscription and may result in pre-emptive action by the organisation’s members designed to circumvent the provisions of TACT and/or the criminal law.”
Can the Minister explain, given that the British branch of Atomwaffen Division was proscribed 14 months ago, and that the National Socialist Order is named in Wikipedia as an alias, why it would come as a surprise to anybody that the parent organisation is now being proscribed? The only surprise is that the parent organisation, the British branch of which was proscribed 14 months ago, is only now being proscribed.
I accept that one of the factors considered by the Secretary of State is the extent of the organisation’s presence in the UK, but another is the need to support international partners in the fight against terrorism. Surely, the United States of America is one of those partners. Bearing in mind that Atomwaffen Division is based in the southern United States, why was it not proscribed at the same time as the British branch of the same organisation, the Sonnenkrieg Division, 14 months ago? Indeed, the Explanatory Memorandum says:
“The Home Secretary believes that AWD is almost certainly now operating under the name NSO in the United States”
in the same way as Atomwaffen Division was operating in United States between 2015 and 2020. Yet it is only now that Atomwaffen Division is being proscribed—more than a year since it claimed to have disbanded following pressure from US law enforcement.
Of course, we support this order, but we also have serious questions as to why it has taken so long to proscribe Atomwaffen Division and its alias, National Socialist Order.
My Lords, on behalf of the Official Opposition, I want to make it very clear that we offer our full support to the Government on all matters of national security and public safety and in ensuring that the public and our communities are safe. Combating terrorism, no matter where it comes from, will always have the full support of these Benches.
It is right that the organisation before us today is outlawed, and we welcome and support this order proscribing it. It sends a strong message that racism, fascism and the glorification of terrorism will simply not be tolerated on our streets and in our society. Like others, I pay tribute to our security services, the counterterrorism police and others for all the work they do to keep us and our communities safe. We will never know all the work they do to keep us safe and we very much thank them for that.
This order will give some clarity and direction to the counterterrorism police for the work that they do. As the Minister set out, this organisation—Atomwaffen Division or AWD—is a white supremacist organisation. In recent years, we have seen a proliferation of these organisations and groups turning up in the UK, and it is right that we deal with them. Just hearing what the Minister has told us is disturbing enough, along with the material that they write about bringing about a “white ethnostate” instigated by the collapse of society through a race war. Everything we stand for as British citizens—our country and our values—is opposed to these ideas. It is vile propaganda, and I am delighted that the organisations will be outlawed today.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made a fair point about the different forms of the organisation, asking why we did not deal with all of them at the same time. If the Minister could help us out, it would be interesting to hear the explanation. I accept that the organisations try to change—like a chameleon—by having one name first and then changing to something different, but it is fair to ask why they were not all captured at the same time. I accept that the Home Secretary has to look at a number of factors, and perhaps that is the reason why, but that is the only question I have for the Minister. We very much support and welcome the order today, and offer the Government our full support.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in favour of this proscription. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, made the pertinent point that these actions are preventive—and, my goodness, the security services have certainly prevented some terrorist action over the last few years. Like the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Kennedy, I pay tribute to them.
The noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Paddick, pressed me on why we are bringing these measures forward now. Obviously, there is information that the Home Secretary receives that I cannot discuss, and she will make decisions based on the intelligence and legal information that she receives. On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, we do not think that SKD was actually the British branch of AWD. It might have been influenced by AWD, but we understand that it is not the same group. They are all equally awful, but we do not think that those links are there. With that, I beg to move.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now resume. I ask Members to respect social distancing. The time limit for the following debate is five hours.
Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy
Motion to Take Note
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to open this important debate in your Lordships’ House on the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy.
As noble Lords will be aware, the Prime Minister published the review on 16 March this year. It is the product of more than a year’s work across government in consultation with a huge range of academics, allies and external organisations. It is the most comprehensive articulation of foreign policy and approach to national security published by a British Government in decades. It also sets out the Prime Minister’s vision for a stronger and more prosperous union in 2030 and outlines the actions we will take at home and abroad to realise that vision.
The integrated review outlines how the nature and distribution of global power is changing. It identifies evolving trends in the world that will shape the next decade, including geopolitical and geo-economic shifts, such as China’s increasing power and assertiveness and the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific region, which are subjects we discuss quite regularly in your Lordships’ House; the increasing competition between states over interests, norms and values, with authoritarian states and malign actors seeking to undermine the democratic systems and openness that underpin our way of life; rapid technological change in areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber and data, which is totally reshaping the threats we face and the wide scope of opportunities that lie ahead; and, finally, the transnational and existential threats to our climate, biodiversity and health, illustrated so acutely by the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic. These threats affect everyone everywhere, and they risk reversing decades of shared progress.
Faced with this clear analysis of the trials we face today and the challenges of tomorrow, we cannot turn inward as a country and hope to prosper. We must be energetic and build alliances to counter and overcome these challenges, demonstrating the full capabilities of global Britain. To do this, we will focus on four key areas where the United Kingdom can make a difference.
First, we will grow the UK as a great science and technology power. We will ensure that our current strategic advantage translates into a mastery of the technologies that are central to geopolitical competition and our future prosperity, including, of course, areas such as artificial intelligence and renewables. To achieve this, we are backing talent and expertise across the country. We are supporting scientists, researchers, investors and innovators. We are working with regulators and standards bodies to help shape international norms. We are leveraging talent and ideas from academia and the private sector, helping manufacturers take their innovations through to market. In this respect, we are investing at least £800 million to set up an independent body for high-risk, high-reward research. The advanced research and invention agency will back breakthrough technologies and basic research through experimentation. We are growing our global network of innovation partnerships, putting science and technology at the heart of our alliances and partnerships worldwide, from security to free trade agreements.
Our second priority is to reinvigorate the international order in support of the interests of open and democratic societies. We will play a more active part in international institutions to reinforce and reshape the international order of the future, extending it in areas such as cyberspace and space, while protecting and strengthening democratic values. We will promote trade, because it creates jobs and prosperity at home and abroad and offers the developing world a more compelling model of growth. We are also pursuing a values-driven trade policy to make the world stronger, safer and more prosperous. In less than two years, we have already secured trade agreements with 66 countries, and we have signed a trade and co-operation agreement with our allies and neighbours in the European Union. We are also very much deeply committed to multilateralism. The United Kingdom is proud to have played its part, both as one of the UN’s founding members and as a permanent member of the Security Council. Indeed, noble Lords will recall that, earlier this year, we hosted Secretary-General Guterres and his team—in what turned out to be, unfortunately, a virtual visit—to mark the end of UN 75.
Thirdly, we will defend the British people by taking a more robust approach to security and deterrence, by defending British people abroad and by building up better governance abroad. We are increasing our investment in defence to 2.2% of GDP. Our Armed Forces will be more persistently engaged overseas and better prepared to meet emerging threats with full-spectrum capabilities, including in space and cyberspace. We will take a more integrated approach to government work on conflict and instability, addressing the drivers of conflict such as bad governance and strengthening the resilience of fragile countries to external interference.
Finally, and equally importantly, global Britain will be a force for good in the world, building resilience both at home and overseas as a defence against the threats we all face. Tackling climate change and biodiversity loss is now our top international priority, supported, as noble Lords will recognise, by the £11.6 billion we have committed to international climate finance, and our 10-point green plan to reach net zero by 2050. We will use COP 26 in Glasgow later this year to encourage direct action to reach a zero-carbon global economy, to protect and restore biodiversity and to help vulnerable countries adapt and boost their resilience to climate change.
I mentioned the Covid-19 pandemic; we are working collaboratively with key partners and agencies and the United Nations to beat Covid-19 by using our G7 presidency to accelerate equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics across the world. We are also seeking reform of the World Health Organization, but this is not just about calling for reform; it will be supported by our 30% increase in core funding over the next four years, which will take our contribution to the World Health Organization to £340 million. We are establishing a global hub to provide countries with a single source of intelligence on the human, animal and environmental risks they face.
As a force for good, we will also continue to stand up for open societies and democratic values: the values and issues that matter to us most, such as freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom to choose. We will continue to defend press and media freedom, and we will strengthen and promote freedom of religion or belief, including through an international ministerial conference scheduled to be held in the UK in 2022. We were the first European country to announce sanctions against the regime in Belarus, and we have introduced measures to ensure that British organisations are not complicit in, or profiting from, human rights violations in Xinjiang. More widely, we will continue to promote effective governance, democratic institutions and the rule of law, including by bolstering our support for election observations and by introducing a new global sanctions regime on corruption.
We will use our leadership on international development to help tackle global poverty and achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030. We will continue to work for gender equality and our target of getting 40 million more girls into school in low and middle-income countries by 2025. By creating the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, we have combined our aid with our diplomatic clout and are focusing our spending on where the UK can make a difference, while delivering on wider objectives that serve our national interest.
No single country could achieve these objectives alone; as I have often said from the Dispatch Box, collective action with our allies and partners is vitally important. We will lead by example where we have unique or significant strengths and identify other goals where we are better placed to support and work constructively and collaboratively with our allies. These alliances will help sustain an international order in which open societies and economies can flourish.
The wisdom of this joined-up approach was evident during my recent visit to India. From Chandigarh to Chennai, I saw how our ambitious vision of global Britain, coupled with a clear-eyed analysis of the UK’s place in the world, is setting the tone for a productive and progressive alliance with a key strategic partner. Increasing our engagement in the Indo-Pacific region is a major priority that we have identified in the review, including through our ambition to become a dialogue partner to the ASEAN group of nations.
We will also develop stronger partnerships around the world. Building from the bedrock of our traditional alliances with the United States and Europe, and as the leading European ally within NATO, this includes our current work with allies and through NATO to deter Russia, particularly with regard to Ukraine to de-escalate the situation.
We also believe in being a partner of choice in Africa, from deepening trade and business links that support quality jobs, at home and across Africa, to working together to champion girls’ education as a way to unlock opportunity. When you educate a girl, you change the future for her family, her community, her town or city and for her country.
We will foster thriving relationships in the Middle East based on trade, green innovation and science.
The UK has had the privilege of serving as Commonwealth chair-in-office since 2018—as Minister for the Commonwealth, this has been a particular priority for me. The Commonwealth is a constellation of 53 sovereign and equal member states and remains an important institution in supporting an open and resilient international order. It brings together states with a national interest in promoting democracy and ideals and values that we share, sustaining individual freedoms, driving sustainable development and enabling cross-border trade.
We will do more to adapt to China’s growing impact, managing disagreements, defending our values, and co-operating where our interests align—and, yes, that includes pursuing a positive economic relationship, while also tackling global challenges such as climate change.
We are clear-eyed about the challenges we face, but we are also optimistic about our future. We are an active European country, with a global perspective, bringing nations together to solve the problems that matter most to our people, and to improve their lives and those of citizens around the world.
In conclusion, the integrated review sends a message about what the United Kingdom stands for as an independent actor on the global stage. It is our commitment to work with our allies and partners as a force for good.
To reflect on the past year alone, we have introduced a UK Magnitsky sanctions law to target individuals guilty of the most serious human rights violations abroad. I acknowledge the contribution of many in your Lordships’ House that has strengthened our work in this area and built the momentum behind the introduction of that law. We took the bold step to issue an invitation to this country to the people of Hong Kong oppressed by Beijing. Again, I know that that is an important priority for many in your Lordships’ House. We set an example to the world with our contribution to COVAX, the global vaccine programme for the developing world. We have continued to be one of the most generous contributors of foreign aid, and we were the first industrialised nation to set a legally binding national target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
This is global Britain. The integrated review builds on this foundation. It unleashes our independent foreign policy outside the European Union and sets out our vision for the next decade, based on our values and grounded in the UK national interest. This is our mission: global Britain as a force for good in the world. I beg to move.
Before I call the next speaker—the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe—the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, the Chief Whip, will say a little about speaking times.
My Lords, when the integrated review was announced by the Prime Minister, we welcomed it. We wanted it to succeed, to keep our citizens safe and to secure Britain as a moral force for good in the world. But, after its publication, the chorus of concern has only grown. To put it simply, it is a plan for fewer troops, fewer ships and fewer planes. There is no assessment of current or future capability, no strategic principles and nothing about how the Ministry of Defence should be structured to best provide national security.
For this speech, I will focus on defence, and my noble friend Lord Collins will focus on the foreign and development policy components—but, of course, they are interrelated. On defence, I start with the Prime Minister’s comments. He said that the integrated review would end what he described as an “era of retreat”. The review and subsequent defence Command Paper made it clear that the threats facing the UK are “increasing and diversifying”. Despite these promises and expanding threats, the review is set to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The Prime Minister even broke an election promise by announcing that the size of the Army specifically will be cut by 10,000 by 2025. We urge the Government to think again. Former military chiefs, including the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Richards, have said that further cuts to the Army would mean that the UK was
“no longer taken seriously as a military power”
“damage our relationship with the US and our position in NATO”.
A slew of Navy and RAF retirements have been announced. These include “at least” two Type 23 frigates, well before new frigates will be brought into service, Typhoon tranche 1 aircraft and Hawk T1 training aircraft. We urge the Government to think again.
I will also touch on threats. The review outlines a number of threats to the UK, but fails to present a coherent strategy for deterring them. Rightly, the Command Paper names Russia as the
“greatest nuclear, conventional military and sub-threshold threat to European security.”
This is evidenced by the build-up of 100,000 Russian troops on the border of eastern Ukraine but, despite their own warning, the Government still have not fully implemented any of the Russia report’s 23 recommendations, 18 months after the report was completed. I ask the Minister a simple question: why?
With the integrated review, Ministers are making the same mistake—responding to increasing threats with more cuts. Of course, we must develop new technologies in domains such as cyberspace and artificial intelligence, but new technologies have always been harnessed to strengthen our Armed Forces; they will never entirely replace the need for boots on the ground.
My Lords, we waited a long time for this review. What arrived has some extraordinary omissions, contradictions and, frankly, double-speak. The words on the page do not square with the actions that the Government are taking.
We are, of course, a smaller player outside the EU, more dependent on the US and their interests and buffeted by China. The review says that we are in a multipolar world—indeed so. One of those poles is the EU, and yet there is an EU-shaped hole here. The review rightly emphasises that we achieve more by working with others. Why then is there nothing here on how we work with the EU properly or rebuild our relationship?
The review emphasises an “Indo-Pacific tilt”. Of course, this region will be very important for trade, and challenging with the rise of China, but being in the EU never stopped trade with China, or India or Indonesia, and would have given us a stronger base for tackling China’s threats.
The review was pre-empted by the merger of the FCO and DfID, without having worked out any strategic reason for this. Then, during the pandemic, which demonstrates how interlinked we are globally, there was the decision to cut ODA. Both actions undermine our outstanding previous reputation in international development and poverty reduction. Much of the review was clearly written before that cut was decided, and this undermines the rhetoric throughout.
There is something of an industrial strategy here, at the same time that we learn that we are not really going to have one. It says that we need to be a science and technology superpower. That was at the heart of the 2012 industrial strategy and helped to lay the foundations for our strength in the biotech sector, but those cutting ODA clearly did not know how it supported the science and tech sector, and that cuts would savagely undermine the review’s claims.
See, too, soft power. The review rightly recognises both the British Council and the BBC. It says:
“The BBC is the most trusted broadcaster worldwide”.
Yet the British Council is closing offices because of cuts and the BBC is under systematic attack from the Government.
The review does not even try to define global Britain, which is what the Government say we are post Brexit. I quote:
“What Global Britain means in practice is best defined by actions rather than words.”
Indeed: we have cut aid, threatened to break international law and lost allies. Our effort on
“global leadership on reducing space threats”
amounts to a UN General Assembly resolution. We appointed
“the UK’s first Special Envoy for Famine Prevention”,
but cut assistance to Yemen, as Mark Lowcock said, to
“balance the books on the backs of the starving people of Yemen”.
The review says that we will uphold human rights, but we have agreed an unconstrained FTA with Cambodia, despite human rights abuses, in contrast to the EU’s approach.
The review says that
“the UK will remain deeply invested in the security and prosperity of Europe”,
but we have slashed support to the Balkans. There is a chapter entitled “Arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation: our commitment to international treaties”—and then it says that we will increase our nuclear warheads. George Orwell would have been impressed.
I welcome this review for being useful, as we are better able to hold the Government to account on what they say that they want to do. What is extraordinary is the contrast between that rhetoric and the reality of the Government’s actions.
I start by saying that the integrated review is a good piece of work. It sets the strategic scene well and I agree with many of the conclusions that it draws. There are inevitably areas of detail that merit more examination and further debate but, alas, there is no opportunity for that today. Given the short time available, I shall make just two points.
First, despite the much-discussed tilt to the Indo-Pacific, the review correctly identifies Russia as the most immediate threat to our security. The maintenance of our commitment to NATO, the associated transatlantic relationship and the continued development of our military capabilities, including in new fields such as cyber, are therefore crucial. But we will continue to face challenges from Russia below the threshold of conventional war. Success with these requires robust international responses, particularly among our European neighbours, but such responses will become increasingly difficult to agree, as issues of security become more entangled with those of trade and supply, and short-term national concerns trump regional solidarity. Nord Stream 2 and its possible effect on Europe’s ability to respond effectively to Russian adventurism is a case in point.
How do we rise to this challenge? The integrated review says that the UK will work with its European partners “where our interests coincide”. Surely there can be no greater example of mutual self-interest than the peace and stability of our own continent. But our ability to influence our European partners has undoubtedly been weakened by Brexit. We are no longer directly involved in the engine rooms where EU foreign and security policy proposals are developed, and our high-level relationships with our neighbours are subject to the tensions and frictions that will arise from time to time, as a consequence of our divergence from previously common positions. These are now inescapable facts of life that will require determined and sustained effort if we are to counteract them, but the review has little or nothing to say about how this is to be done.
My second point concerns China. The review says:
“We will continue to pursue a positive trade and investment relationship … while ensuring our national security and values are protected.”
This is likely to prove an almost impossible balancing act and we need to be clearer about the choices we will have to make and where our true interests lie. China patently does not wish to be constrained by the post-1945 global order. Whether it wants to dictate the course of other nations may be open to question; that it wants to be free of constraints imposed by others is beyond doubt. We are now engaged in a global contest to determine the rules by which international behaviour will be governed for most of the remainder of this century. The outcome of that struggle is crucial to our national interest.
The Government have rightly said that the UK should help to shape those rules, but this will mean opposing China. It will require us to be part of a grouping that can muster sufficient economic strength, military power and technological advantage to influence decisions in a way that runs counter to China’s purposes. As a proud and modern superpower, China will not take such opposition lying down. There will be consequences. We should, of course, seek to trade with China and to engage with it on important issues such as climate change, but we should also expect our stances on global governance and human rights to disrupt those efforts, perhaps severely. Our strategy should make clear that we place long-term benefit over short-term advantage and that we are prepared to face up to the difficulties that this will cause.
My Lords, the International Relations and Defence Committee, which I chair, has discussed the proposals in the integrated review. My comments today reflect the views expressed on just three issues.
We welcome the drive to achieve better co-ordination and consistency between Britain’s international departments. Foreign policy should balance the interests and values of the UK. That objective is evident in the Government’s overall approach—[Inaudible]— prosperity, security and democracy. We feel, however, that the review itself is too broad-brush, failing sufficiently to prioritise and give a clear indication of where and when the UK will expend both time and resources. That is even more vital at a time when the Government have decided to break the UK’s statutory commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on ODA. The review states:
“We will continue to support stability in Afghanistan, as part of a wider coalition”
“Under persistent engagement, our armed forces will continue to … provide support to the Government of Afghanistan”.
In the light of the announcement that UK troops will leave Afghanistan in September, plus the reduction in ODA spend, what are the consequences for the Government’s commitments in the review? What priority will the Government give to support for the Afghan Government?
We are also concerned by a lack of consistency in sections of the report. The tilt to the Indo-Pacific was heavily briefed before publication, but the review identifies Russia, not China, as
“the most acute direct threat to the UK”.
There are some standard lines on support for NATO and European partners, but the review offers little on the importance of working alongside like-minded countries with which we share a neighbourhood. As economic pressures build, of course we understand why the Government are rushing towards an Indo-Pacific focus and new partners further afield. However, it is essential to nurture our alliances with nearer friends too.
There is also a lack of consistency in the approach to relations with countries in Africa. The regions of Africa prioritised in the review are not consistent with the Government’s evidence given to our committee about their strategic approach focusing on security in the Sahel. There is a glancing reference to the Sahel in half a sentence and two brief mentions of Mali, but that is it. We are not given reasons for the change in focus. It is east Africa which is prioritised; this is new. The case for closer engagement in east Africa would not be difficult to make, but the Government simply do not do so.
A final matter of concern is the decision to increase the UK’s nuclear stockpile. There could hardly be a worse time to do so, just months before the RevCon of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. If there is a plausible rationale for that significant policy change, perhaps based on maintaining the credibility of our nuclear deterrent, the Government should make that case. They have not. Their decision undermines Britain’s leverage to encourage other nuclear weapon states to exercise restraint in their modernisation programmes.
I hope that the more detailed plans which should surely flow from the review will focus better on prioritisation and resourcing to deliver the Government’s ambitions for a global Britain. We all need that to happen.
My Lords, I will confine myself to making three points on nuclear deterrence, a policy I have long supported both inside and outside government. I did not hear the Minister mention it today, but I have concerns about the review in this area, some of which reflect what the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has just said. First, page 76 of the integrated review approximates to our present policy by saying:
“The UK will not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear weapon state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons 1968.”
However, it then goes on to say, no more than two sentences later:
“However, we reserve the right to review this assurance if the future threat of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological capabilities, or emerging technologies that could have a comparable impact, makes it necessary.”
This raises a question. Does it actually mean that we hold open the use of nuclear weapons in response to any form of aggression, including, perhaps, through technology or cyber? Will the Minister explain the meaning of this section? In asking that, I understand that ambiguity has a part to play in nuclear deterrence but, if ambiguity is stretched so far that it becomes ubiquitous, it is in danger of becoming confusing and, frankly, incredible. That, in turn, then undermines rather than reinforces nuclear deterrence.
Secondly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, just said, and as my noble friend Lord Browne recently and accurately pointed out, by raising the cap on the numbers of our nuclear arsenal we have effectively abdicated our leadership role in nuclear disarmament, not least by announcing a policy change that runs completely counter to President Biden’s commitment to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in national security policies. In the integrated review, the Government have provided for fewer soldiers, fewer planes, fewer ships, but more nuclear warheads. Perhaps the Minister could tell the House, first, what the rationale is for that and, secondly, what consultation took place with the Biden Administration on this change?
We live in an age in which the threats and dangers are more complex and interrelated than ever before. Only this week US Strategic Command warned:
“The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option.”
In this context, will the Minister explain how the decision to increase our nuclear stockpile, and to potentially extend the threat of a nuclear response to an apparently unlimited range of conflict situations, is supposed to strengthen nuclear deterrence?
Finally, I draw the Minister’s attention to a paper issued this week by the European Leadership Network, which pointed out:
“The ability for the leaders of nuclear-weapons states … to communicate personally, unambiguously, and with certainty in all conditions has eroded as their number … has increased”
and technology has evolved. Astonishingly, in an age when any nuclear crisis or conflict could not be contained with certainty to two states, there are currently no multilateral communication lines that can be trusted. All major nuclear risk reduction efforts under way ahead of the NPT review conference have recommended that the permanent five work on improving crisis communication technology. What have the Government done to assist this process?
Before I call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, it might be helpful to read out the scratches so that the speakers who follow them will be aware and can make plans. The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, has scratched, as has the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble Lords, Lord Sarfraz, Lord Walney, Lord Hannan, Lord Berkeley and Lord Desai.
My Lords, the telling phrase is in part V of the review. On page 97, paragraph 2, it says:
“‘Integration’ is not a new theme in the UK’s approach to national security, although the language used to describe it has varied over time.”
Language is important. On development co-operation, the language of a United Kingdom Prime Minister, at the start of this, described UK development assistance as
“a great cashpoint in the sky”.
That was the message from this Government to the world. On page 5, the language on aid is
“we will return to our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development when the fiscal situation allows.”
I have asked the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, three times, including today, what these fiscal criteria are, and there has been no answer. The Government either know and are refusing to tell Parliament—which is an undemocratic outrage—or this is just more disingenuous language that warrants no trust.
Only one part of the integrated review has been underpinned by law, and the Government are acting unlawfully in contradiction to it, by halving UK bilateral aid assistance. How integrated is it, when the Government say it will be a soft power—as my noble friend Lady Northover indicated—but, in the preceding three years, the Government said the soft power strategy was imminent, only for it ditched as Brexit made it inconvenient?
The Africa strategy that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, referred to was imminent but was never published. Theresa May promised that the UK would be the largest investor in Africa. China took note because of its strategic debt policy. China noticed even more when Boris Johnson ditched that approach. What is our approach to investment in Africa? What guides us on this? Annex B, on evidence and engagement, says in paragraph 2 that
“we undertook a systematic programme of engagement, analysis and challenge.”
On the breaking of the law and cutting UK bilateral aid by the greatest amount ever, the statement is not true—especially on Yemen. On 3 March, I asked the Minister what impact assessment had been carried out on halving support for Yemen. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, refused to answer. On Tuesday, Chris Bold, the development director for Yemen at the FCDO, told the Commons committee:
“We haven’t done an impact assessment.”
Halving support for the poorest people in the world, during the worst humanitarian crisis on earth, is a moral stain on this Government. Nothing in this integrated review means anything if we can do this without an assessment of the impact on them, our global reputation, and our partners, by the resignation of leadership. If one of the richest countries in the world can halve support to the poorest people in the world, there is no moral compass to guide anything else in this review. We are not just cutting aid; we are cutting co-operation. We are not just cutting by half our position as a donor; we are a less reliable partner to all those we have worked with to this point.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a strategic adviser to Lockheed Martin UK. I know how hard it is to conduct a review such as this, having co-ordinated the equivalent document in 2010. I pay tribute to Professor John Bew and to all the officials who produced it. I agree with the Minister that it is the most comprehensive survey yet of the UK’s national security challenges. It also gives a convincing analysis of a world that is fracturing into blocs and heading towards systemic competition. I welcome the confirmation that European security, NATO and Britain’s partnership with the US will, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, said, be at the heart of our foreign policy.
The Indo-Pacific passage turned out to be more measured than the advance hype suggested. Some increase in diplomatic activity, economic engagement and military presence makes sense, but we have to be realistic: Britain will only ever be a secondary player in Asian security. The passage on China recognises that we must treat the country both as a strategic competitor and a necessary partner on trade and climate change. I agree that that is the difficult balancing act we need to perform.
I want to underline three areas that I see as main weaknesses in the review. First, it is an impressively wide-ranging document, but it is not a strategy. The US historian John Lewis Gaddis defines strategy as
“the alignment of potentially unlimited aspirations with necessarily limited capabilities.”
This review suggests British leadership in a whole series of areas but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, observed, it makes no effort to set priorities. In the 2010 and 2015 reviews, we published a prioritised list of the risks facing Britain, which at least offered some guide to resource allocation. This review is, in effect, a long laundry list of worthy goals, leaving the real choices to be made by Ministers later.
Secondly, it is not truly integrated. There is a large gap between the words of the review and the Government’s actions. This is clearest in the ambition for the UK to be a “soft power superpower”. That is a noble aim, but the problem is that the Government’s actions are undercutting it. Take development policy: DfID was a great soft power ambassador for Britain; it showed that we were practising the values we preached. Reducing the aid programme to 0.5% of a smaller GDP means making more than £4 billion of cuts from one financial year to the next. It is the speed as well as the scale of those cuts that is going to have such a disruptive impact. Since the UK already has some long-term commitments to multilateral organisations such as the World Bank, the burden will fall heaviest on the bilateral programmes in countries in desperate need, such as Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Syria. I felt that the Foreign Secretary’s Statement yesterday disguised the extent of those cuts, but they are inevitable. They will mean stopping projects for humanitarian support, clean water, education and nutrition. Once staff are sacked it will be very difficult to get them restarted.
At the same time, the British Army is to create new Ranger battalions to train and mentor the armed forces of less advanced partners. I fear we risk cutting development spending and increasing military presence in the same regions, if not the same countries. The Minister might wish to explain how that is an integrated approach.
Thirdly and finally, in two sentences, we are proposing to work with European partners but not the EU. How can we credibly aspire to be a superpower in soft power, science and technology, reshaping the world order, if we do not have a functional relationship with the EU? We will not have a real national strategy until we can overcome this taboo.
My Lords, your Lordships should be well pleased by one aspect of this review, because it reflects and draws on two seminal House of Lords reports, Persuasion and Power in the Modern World in 2014 and UK Foreign Policy in a Shifting World Order in 2018, which urged policymakers and the then Foreign & Commonwealth Office to reappraise the UK’s position in a totally changed world landscape.
I welcome especially the review’s recommended tilt to Asia, including not just China but Japan, India and all the ASEAN counties, in terms of trade and security—a shift which some of us have been urging for decades, long before Brexit, to what is now by far the most vibrant region on the planet. The balanced approach to the tricky China containment issue, which has already been referred to, is also welcome, instead of some of the shotgun-like Sinophobia that has been served up to us from both sides of the Atlantic, which China simply brushes off. Almost every democracy, and almost certainly every Commonwealth member state, is looking for the right balance in dealing with the Chinese. Incidentally, I hope that New Zealand is not going wobbly on this need for developing a robust common approach.
The review is also good on recognising how technology has changed, the nature of warfare and defence—how, in the age of drones, cyber and artificial intelligence, troop power will have to be more skilled but with fewer numbers on the ground—and how soft power and smart power now play a central role in UK foreign policy in a networked and multipolar world, just as we urged seven years ago. The whole of society is now involved in a permanent kind of warfare, requiring entirely new kinds of defence, which some critics frankly do not yet seem to have grasped. Incidentally, I have to ask why the biggest modern soft power network of all, the modern Commonwealth, which the Minister has served so supremely well, gets so very little acknowledgement and no serious appraisal in this review until page 61.
Where the authors go wrong is in not understanding the full nature of the changed relationship with the United States. There is still far too much of a tone of the old followership with America, rather than partnership in the network age. The review seems far too influenced by US think tanks, with their dated obsession with great power dominance and rivalries. Power, trade and even dollar dominance are shifting away from the West, but not much of that seems to come through in the review at all.
Lastly, it has to be asked who on earth decided to put the lifting of the nuclear warhead cap, which goes flatly against NPT doctrine, in with the publication of this review. That inevitably distorted its public reception and its main messages. It really was a very unwise thing to do and spoiled a good, if belated, contribution to our reappraisal of Britain’s position in a transformed world order.
My Lords, as this review sadly confirms, rather than emerging from Brexit as global Britain, the country now inhabits a kind of diplomatic limbo. The omission, at the UK’s insistence, of foreign policy and defence from the trade and co-operation agreement with the EU, together with the failure to agree a trade deal with the US reflecting the Biden Administration’s concerns about Brexit and its potential consequences for the island of Ireland, mean that the Government are left aspiring to a global role without having secured the alliances or the resources they need.
The Government say that they want to tilt their international relationships in the direction of Asia—a region that has recently provided about 20% of the UK’s trade, as opposed to almost half with the EU. The PM’s cancelled visit to India was planned for this purpose. However, outside the huge EU single market, the UK frankly ranks as a mid-sized power and lacks negotiating leverage. Britain is just 18th on the list of trading partners with India, a traditionally protectionist economy.
In view of the current massing of troops at the Ukrainian border, the review rightly identifies Russia under Vladimir Putin as an active threat. However, the Conservative Party continues to accept donations from London-based Russian oligarchs, and it has failed to implement any of the recommendations of the long-delayed Russia report of the British Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, finally published in July last year.
By contrast, despite major human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, China is described in the review as merely a “systemic challenge”. The decision to go for a hard Brexit, which cuts off trade links with the EU, increases incentives to trade with China. The Government have been using heavy-handed tactics to block the genocide amendment to the Trade Bill and the Foreign Secretary has been hinting off the record at double standards in trying to secure certain trade deals. Compromising our common values on China would likely further damage the prospects of close co-operation with the United States. Indeed, at last week’s US-Japan summit there was pressure by the US on Japan to decouple supply chains from China.
The concept of Britain punching above her weight also seems nostalgic, especially with a £17 billion defence equipment budget hole and day-to-day defence spending being cut by 2.7% in real terms over the next four years. Instead of reducing our stockpile of Trident nuclear warheads to 180, the Government’s unexplained intention is to increase the cap to 260—a violation of the UK’s international non-proliferation treaty commitments. With the urgent need to invest and re-equip our health and care services after Covid, how on earth can we afford money-wasting spending on weapons of mass destruction when we have enormous capability anyway? The Government’s disgraceful decision to cut foreign aid from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5% will damage the UK’s leadership of the G7 and the climate summit later this year.
Britain’s credibility is also being damaged by threats to our own UK union and by the current dysfunctional relationship with the EU, our largest trading partner and the biggest, richest market in the world right here on our doorstep. Global Britain? More like parochial, shrunken Britain under this Government, sadly.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, has withdrawn, so I call the noble Lord, Lord McDonald of Salford.
My Lords, unlike many noble Lords, many allies have welcomed the integrated review. I will make just three points from listening to this debate.
First, the most consequential meeting the United Kingdom will organise this year—even more important than the G7—is COP 26 in November. Our guests in Glasgow are entitled to ask what our contribution is. This week’s announcement of a 78% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2035 compared with 1990 goes a long way to answer that question, but 90% of the combined biodiversity of the UK and OTs is found in the OTs. What contribution will the OTs make to our climate objectives?
Secondly, I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Reid, Lord Howell, and Lord Hain, and others that raising the cap on our stockpile of nuclear warheads looks odd. I understand that a continuous at-sea deterrent needs us to be able to deploy two boats from time to time. The new ceiling allows both boats to be fully armed. But that does not increase deterrence. It is expensive and incompatible with our obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. In 1968, the non-nuclear weapon states accepted that as their permanent status in exchange for two things: the sharing of the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology, and that nuclear weapon states would work towards nuclear disarmament. The Government assert that the objective is untouched, but the announcement is a step away from its achievement.
Thirdly, on organisation, I agree with my noble friend Lord Ricketts that we need institutional arrangements with the European Union. Internally, things are clearer. The merger of the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office last year was an essential step to increase and maximise the coherence and impact of the UK’s overseas policy-making and policy delivery. Cutting the aid budget at the same time has made acceptance of this merger more difficult within the new department, but I still believe that it is the right thing to do and that we should go further—I hope that, before long, trade will fall under the authority of the Foreign Secretary.
Lastly, I have an organisational suggestion for the Opposition. In order to succeed, the FCDO needs everyone who works for it to buy into the new ministry. Some colleagues will feel justified in treating it as temporary for as long as there is a shadow Secretary of State for International Development. I urge the Opposition to correct that anomaly.
My Lords, the very first world leader to have a personal meeting with the new US President was the Prime Minister of Japan. The posture of China has understandably increased nervousness and alarm in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere. That meeting underlined the significance of the renewed emphasis of our own commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, but this assessment in our integrated review also needs to be put in the context of our commercial considerations.
Japan chairs the CPTPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an area of rapid economic growth and opportunity, and is supporting our bid for membership. This is very important, as we need a strong economic power base to protect our own future prosperity and security. Japan is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. In the face of the current undermining of the rules-based international order, I ask my noble friend how we can assertively promote our own long-standing commitment to such an international order, given its immense importance.
British geostrategy has been largely based on the Euro-Atlantic theatre. Our newly emphasised commitment to the Indo-Pacific region does not preclude Britain being at the very heart of the security of the Euro-Atlantic region, where the bulk of the UK’s security focus will remain—and with reason.
I chair the British Ukrainian Society. The massive build-up of Russian armed forces on the country’s border reminds us of Russia’s continuing aggression. It is truly astonishing that Nord Stream 2 will increase dependence on Russian gas supplies, which have been operated with pricing mechanisms according to purely political criteria. It is of course most damaging to the Ukrainian economy, which will now be bypassed. I ask my noble friend, given that the review describes Russia as the most acute direct threat, how in practice we can deal with the serious challenge it is presenting?
Furthermore, in Europe we must assert the absolute necessity of defence burden sharing. We can be grateful to the United States for continuing to pay 70% of NATO’s budget. Without this, our vulnerability in the European continent would be much greater.
The review recognises Euro-Atlantic interconnectivity with the Indo-Pacific, where Britain will establish a greater presence than any other European country—most welcome to our friends in the region and the United States.
Since independence, India has sought to pursue a foreign policy not linked to any particular international grouping. India is crucial as an investor in this country. I hope that democratic India can play its role increasingly in protecting the Indian Ocean. Through our enhanced naval capability, notably HMS “Queen Elizabeth”, I hope we can work with India to effect this. Additionally, our ambition to enhance our scientific capacity can be shared with the high digital skills base in that country.
I very much welcome the clear emphasis on science and technology. Our inventive genius has not always been matched by subsequent commercial success. Building on this vital area and helping explicitly to combat climate change must remain key pillars as we recommit to a more focused role in the world.
My Lords, it is conventional on these occasions—a maiden speech—to pay tribute to the officers and staff of this House. Having spent much of my professional career in journalism and think tanks debunking the conventional wisdom, it is now delightful to be able to break the habit of a professional lifetime to sing their praises with enthusiasm —the one thing that truly unites us all. I am delighted to do so today for the welcome they have afforded. The expertise and counsel has been very much appreciated by me, as I know they are by many other newcomers here, so I thank them for that.
I also thank my supporters, my noble friends Lord Strathclyde and Lord Howard of Lympne—known well to many here, of course, as a distinguished former Leader of the House and a path-breaking Home Secretary. Their advice and counsel through years have been much appreciated by me as well. I say this particularly because one of my noble friends is a hereditary and the other a life Peer. There has been some harsh criticism from the fourth estate, of which I was once part, of both hereditaries and life Peers. I place on the record here and now my appreciation for the welcome, counsel and wisdom of life Peers and hereditary Peers from all segments of this House. I look forward to learning more and hearing more of their wisdom in the years to come. I say this because the caricature in some portions of the fourth estate and the wider country and society of what has been going on in this House is utterly at variance with what I have experienced.
I say this because I am a Briton not by birth but by choice. I find the caricature of this country in certain quarters of debate as a mean-spirited and bigoted polity, again, utterly at variance with what I have experienced. I place on the record that and the pleasure I derived, in the greatest honour of my public life, from being able to swear allegiance to the sovereign and her successors. The welcome afforded in this country to a newcomer, an immigrant such as me, has always rested on my consciousness, and I am profoundly grateful for it.
I mention this because we are of course here today to discuss the integrated review. As its title suggests, with one of the words about an era of competition, we are of course facing competition from really mean-spirited polities, unlike this country—the critique we hear sometimes in certain quarters. I am grateful that Policy Exchange, the think tank for which I work, has, with its Indo-Pacific report, played its part in shaping debate on the integrated review.
Several things need to be said. The report commanded the attention of many figures in the Indo-Pacific region. It was chaired by Stephen Harper, with a foreword from Shinzo Abe. Commissioners included several Members of this House—the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner—who are here today. Alas, the traditions of this House prevent me acknowledging them in parliamentary terms as friends, but I have benefited from their counsel and insight through the years.
Several things should be noted about impact of the Indo-Pacific report and the wider integrated review. The first is that there was a tremendous welcome from the distinguished group of commissioners on the Indo-Pacific Commission for Britain’s tilt—to use the term of art—towards that region again. The idea that we had become an irrelevance post Brexit could not be further from the truth.
Another point that I think has been omitted at times is that this is not a backward-looking report; it is not nostalgic. It is forward-looking, putting space policy at the heart of an integrated strategy. Moreover, it puts space policy beyond the confines of Europe and into the UK’s greater role in the wider world. The National Cyber Force is another obvious example, alongside a tech envoy to increase our presence in Silicon Valley and beyond. All these things are scarcely evidence of a backward-looking or nostalgic policy.
I look forward to playing a further part in these debates and learning from noble friends and noble Lords across the House. Although criticisms have been levelled today, there is still the serious possibility of dialogue and of recreating some kind of consensus for the future. The integrated review shows the potential that exists there. I look forward to hearing further from noble Lords and to learning more in the days and weeks to come.
My Lords, it is more than an ordinary pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Godson, making his maiden speech. In Scotland, one of the great put-down lines is “I kent his faither”. When I say it today, it is the opposite of a put-down and instead a recognition of the legendary Joe Godson, who would rightly be so proud of his son today. The noble Lord made a fine maiden speech. That should be expected, as he brings to the House a wealth of experience in journalism, authorship and, of course, as director of Policy Exchange, now one of Britain’s most highly regarded and influential think tanks. We will look forward to his future, well-informed contributions.
The integrated review is well written, comprehensive and surprisingly comprehensible. The authors have done a good job constructing what looks like a coherent, ambitious strategy for post-Brexit Britain. In some areas, such as its focus on domestic resilience, it captures new and important ground. Territorial defence will inevitably matter more in the future, as the current invasion by Covid-19 has shown us only too well.
I can, I fear, make only a few brief points in the time limit. First, I believe the review lacks a critical path—a prioritised route to implementation. A plan without that ingredient is in danger of being lost in the governmental undergrowth.
Secondly, the importance of diplomacy is still underestimated. Our Diplomatic Service has been relentlessly cut back in recent years, yet the rest of this review depends on the wise insights and intelligence coming from the Diplomatic Service in the Foreign Office. Reviving and investing in diplomacy will be crucial for the success of the review.
Thirdly, the trade-offs in the defence section between investing in combating the new threats and the continuing ones will remain open to serious debate. If we are to retain our place at the leadership edge of NATO, as we aspire to, our contribution has to rest on more than just the 2.2% statistic.
Fourthly, if we are, as the review asserts, to lead by example in the world, that ambition will, as others have said, be badly damaged by the cut in the legally mandated aid budget of 0.7% of GNI. That cut is hardly an advert for a law-abiding global Britain upholding the rules-based order, and it has been widely noticed.
There is much more to be said about this large and important review, but more is time needed by all of us here and elsewhere to say it. The sooner we get that opportunity, the better.
My Lords, first, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Godson. It is very good to have him here, not only for his expertise, but because one thing that I think unites Members across this House is the need to improve our reputation with the fourth estate. I have no doubt that he will bring to the inside some of his experience from the outside and enable us to do that. I remind the House of my registered interest as the director of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University.
I welcome the idea of an integrated review of this kind and much good work has been put into it. As the review makes clear, we face extraordinary and difficult challenges, requiring complex of approaches to address them properly. However, I found that there was a disjunction between two different approaches within the report. I would like to speak to them in two ways.
The first is general. On the one hand, the report—in some very thoughtful and properly troubling passages—describes how the international rules-based order has been breaking down. It makes it clear that, rather like Humpty Dumpty, it will not be possible to put it back together again. However, at the very beginning of the report, one gets the sense that everything is wonderful, we are doing marvellously and we are going to capitalise on our place in the rules-based international order. These two things do not seem to fit terribly well together. It appears that there is a real need to struggle intellectually with putting them together because we have major challenges.
The second area is more troubling and more immediately so. As I said, the draft by the Prime Minister at the beginning is very positive and upbeat. One can see his very particular phraseology in it and feels like saying “Rah, rah, rah!” at the end of it—until one reads the rest of the report and compares it with one’s knowledge of what is going on. This is profoundly troubling.
I have warned repeatedly in this House that we are already into the third global conflict in cyberspace and it is emerging in other spaces too. Let me give two examples of the urgency. First, Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the state-funded Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik, said that war with the US is inevitable. She believes that the conflict will break out when, not if, Vladimir Putin seizes more territory from Ukraine. Within the last two weeks she has said that there will be a kind of war driven by hacking and the forced disruption of internet access. She said:
“I do not believe that this will be a large-scale hot war, like World War II, and I do not believe that there will be a long Cold War. It will be a war of the third type: the cyber war.”
Turning now to the second example, as is known, I am a psychiatrist, and I have watched with bemusement what I can describe only as the mass hysteria in the response by many leaders, including European leaders, to the question of the vaccine. But the reasons became clear to me in the last few weeks when I had my friends do some research. AstraZeneca is being targeted by large-scale malign influence campaigns conducted by the Russian Federation, using bots to advance its economic and foreign policy goals. The Russian operation has been successful in having France and others disqualify the AZ vaccine from use in their populations. Russia has been adversely influencing things, as it has been in elections and the gilets jaunes campaign. If we do not inform our populations that this is going on, we can scarcely be surprised if they do not appreciate it.
My Lords, time is short so I will not waste too much of it on congratulations. I also think a huge amount of the review is to be welcomed. It presents a largely compelling view of the global security context and the defence and security challenges we face. I wholly agree about the character of a far more competitive world—one that exists in a perpetual state of aggressive, but primarily non-kinetic, rivalry below the threshold of what we have previously viewed as formalised warfare.
In principle, I do not take issue with the theory of achieving military advantage through technological superiority, though I worry that the seductive nature of technical novelty has led to a premature gamble on a further reduction in military capacity. I suspect that the true state of the defence budget is the reason for this gamble. I applaud the further moves to integrate action on multiple fronts and the need for a strategy of persistent engagement. I regret the review’s lack of emphasis on allies.
I have more serious reservations about the review. To explain them requires a short digression into some military doctrine: specifically, the three subordinate components of what we call fighting power. They are: the physical component, the means to fight—tanks, planes and ships; the conceptual component, by which the physical capabilities are coherently employed—strategy, operational art and tactics; and the moral component—the ability to get people to fight, which I abbreviate as the integrity of leadership combined with the moral superiority of purpose. The military doctrine of our nation believes that the full potential of fighting power is realised only when all three of these components are working in harmony.
I believe you can apply those components to an assessment of this review. The review is pretty good at the physical component. Indeed, historically the outcome of many reviews has been judged on that element alone: is the right amount of money being spent on the most appropriate equipment, human capability or departmental activity? Where the review lacks clarity is in accepting that in the context of our two principle threats, China and Russia, our most important weapons are not physical ones: rather, they lie in the cognitive domain. We need a more compelling narrative that better justifies our sense of moral authority and the superiority of the values that we promote and defend. This is why the moral component is so important, but I fear it is the moral component of our nation that is currently damaged because our national integrity is under threat. Brexit, the state of the union, tensions over race, the alienation of politics from society, the continued maldistribution of wealth and opportunity, and sleaze: all these things combine in varying degrees to undermine our integrity, and therefore our moral superiority, in a war of ideas.
The review has described some of the conceptual component, but the description is somewhat abstract and short of explanation as to how ideas are operationalised in practice. For example, what is the ethical, moral and legal framework within which we deploy autonomous weapons, harness artificial intelligence, destroy space-based targets and initiate or threaten offensive cyberattacks? In the battle of competing narratives about what is normal and legitimate, how do we successfully attribute the false claims and illegal acts of our enemies? How does our political leadership sustain legitimacy for its actions? How much of what is envisaged will be disclosed to society? Does the requisite of government even exist to fight this war? Who are the architects of the enduring strategy? Who are the authors of the competing political narratives, and how are the narratives disseminated? Can the NSC really achieve all this sitting for an hour every other Tuesday?
I suppose my fundamental question is: having identified through this review the Government’s best estimate of the character of future war, have we both the machinery and the mentality to prosecute the necessary campaign successfully? Are we both ready and organised for what we have apparently just discovered? My fear is that the war has started and that, at least for now, we are firmly on the defensive.
My Lords, I will start by paying tribute to someone who I know would have been speaking in this debate if he had been able to. Lord Judd, who died last weekend, spent his life devoted to peace and justice internationally. He would tell me of being with his father, who was the first ever director of the United Nations Association in this country, where he met my father, who had set up a branch in the north-east. Frank and my father later became colleagues in the Commons, and both had a driving commitment never to return to the horrors of the war that they had seen.
I went to Kenya at about that time with VSO for two years, and Frank later became its director. We both remained strong advocates of that organisation, and it is that which inspires me today. Frank was horrified at the way in which the Government changed the legally binding commitment of 0.7% of our GDP going to development aid and the manner in which VSO was being treated: the lack of clear decision-making, and arbitrary cuts leading to massive uncertainty and insecurity for all the people involved. However, it is clearly about more than this. It injures our reputation abroad, certainly in those developing countries where promises have been broken and programmes abandoned, and with those countries and organisations where partnerships have been forged but where the UK is no longer able to fulfil its commitments. It is not clear to me that the Government really understand the full extent of that.
It is of course the Government’s right to reset the UK’s position in the world, and the report we are discussing today has many ambitions within it. However, these ambitions depend on the countries that we seek to work with, and the international agencies we want to be a partner in, trusting us and believing that we will stick by our word. That is what is in danger of being lost.
I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement that he is looking to protect VSO, but what does this mean? Will the budget for volunteers for development be renewed at the original level of £16 million, or will the cuts of, in effect, 45% imposed so far on the short-term extensions be the extent of protection? Will the Government ensure that the programme, which they recognise as one of the most effective delivered by UKAID, is able to continue without the closure of work in countries where, even during the pandemic, real change around local communities’ response to Covid-19, protection for women and girls and working with local communities to build resilience against climate change in the most vulnerable countries have all been going on despite the cuts?
Soft power, as the Government have acknowledged, is an essential tool in modern international relations. Organisations such as VSO are the best soft power that the Government have. Will they therefore meet a very small, cross-party delegation to discuss this issue urgently?
My Lords, I welcome my local noble friend Lord Godson and thank him for showing so quickly the excellent contribution that he is going to make to our discussions.
I welcome the integrated review. It is a very brave undertaking by the Government. It is a remarkable document with a very bullish foreword by our Prime Minister. Of course, it is not just a defence review; it carries a host of intentions and undertakings in security, defence, development and foreign policy. It is going to be pretty fertile ground for regular reviews by Parliament of the various aims and ambitions that it expresses.
It has been accompanied by a pretty extensive defence Command Paper. Ben Wallace, the Secretary of State, says in that paper that his core mission is
“to seek out and to understand future threats”.
In the brief time available, I will raise one threat that is referred to only briefly in the review, in connection with the nuclear deterrent, and pick up a theme mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Reid. The integrated review restates the commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, but recognises that there is no early prospect of that, so instead announces the ordering of four new Dreadnought submarines to replace the Vanguards. So, far from the planned reduction of warheads, it announces an increase. That surprised me, and I understand the comments that others have made about that decision—and of course it includes the design of a new warhead. The review states:
“We will champion strategic risk reduction and seek to create dialogue among states possessing nuclear weapons, and between states possessing nuclear weapons and non-nuclear weapon states, to increase understanding and reduce the risk of misinterpretation and miscalculation.”
It is precisely that risk that I, like the noble Lord, Lord Reid, wish to highlight. The continuous at-sea deterrent operates in a totally different communications environment now from the safe, secure systems when it originally operated. We are living now in a world with ever-new developments, with cyberwarfare, ever-greater organised hacking systems, artificial intelligence, audio and videos called deep fakes and, on the side, an increasing interest by other countries in some of our undersea cables, which are important to some of our communication connections. The risk of misinterpretation and miscalculation is all the greater, and there is a vital need for effective hotlines at a top level between nuclear weapons states.
I have just learnt that France, as the new chair of the P5 process, has embraced the concept of strategic risk reduction and will make improving crisis communication technologies, such as hotlines, a key priority for discussion among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council ahead of and beyond the planned review conference of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty this August. I hope the Government will give this French initiative the greatest possible support and assistance. There is no question but that we live a more dangerous world at present, with the increasingly assertive role of Russia and China’s activities. It is a dangerous situation and nuclear miscalculation could be catastrophic. No time must be lost in addressing that.
My Lords, I welcome my noble friend Lord Godson to the Chamber. He mentioned that he has been a member of the fourth estate, as he put it, for many years. Perhaps we will see circumstances where poacher becomes gamekeeper. We look forward very much to hearing more of his thoughts in the days ahead.
Broadly speaking, I welcome the fact that there is a review. I welcome many of the ambitious proposals it contains on science and technology issues and cyber issues. All these things are very important and very valuable. We have seen how small a place the world has become, particularly in the past year when disease knows no boundaries.
However, one issue continues to worry me. I do not believe that we have succeeded in matching our resources, particularly in terms of defence, to our policy objectives. We have heard for decades about the black hole that exists in the MoD in its equipment and other budgets. When the noble Lord, Lord Hammond, was Secretary of State for Defence, we were told that this gap had been plugged. However, just as the 2010 review proved to be a major mistake, I think we are on the verge of making unnecessary mistakes this time.
I appreciate that we cannot look on defence purely in terms of numbers of troops and traditional equipment. The nature of warfare is changing, as many speakers have pointed out. However, I do not understand the idea that you can have all these international objectives—some of which I think are very good—but deliver them with a smaller army while getting rid of one of the principal mechanisms for moving troops and equipment around the world, the Hercules transport aircraft. If we are, quite correctly, trying to re-establish a footprint in the Indo-Pacific region, how that is to be achieved with fewer vessels at our disposal escapes me.
We still have not matched our resources. I do not believe that we can deliver these very valuable objectives within a remit of 2.2% of GDP. I just do not think it is possible. We have to rethink that all together. I do not like budgets that are ring-fenced by percentages: it has to be done on need and on a changing basis. We see that with the development budget, which so many speakers have already mentioned today. I feel, to put it colloquially, that our eye is bigger than our belly. We have these objectives, many of which are good, but we have not matched our financial resources to deliver them. I ask the Minister, particularly on defence, where I hope we will have further opportunities for more detailed debate, to bear in mind that with a shrunken military footprint we cannot deliver what are sometimes very valuable objectives.
My Lords, I declare my interest as vice-chair of and consultant to the Nuclear Threat Initiative. In the other place, Tobias Ellwood, anticipating the visit of General Austin, the US Secretary of Defense, said:
“our special relationship requires work.”
Predicting warm words about the special relationship and our planned investment in
“special forces, cyber and space resilience,”—[Official Report, Commons, 14/4/21; col. 395]
he suggested that, in private, Austin would more candidly say our navy is way too small, conventional fighting capability should not be cut and nor should the F-35 order.
Although those words reflect Labour’s criticism of the integrated review, I want to focus on another aspect of the review and what it means for the relationship with the US. In doing so, I shall expand upon one of the issues raised by my noble friend Lord Reid. The meeting took place last Thursday, but I can find no reference to what was discussed on the MoD’s website. Five days later, the DoD carried a readout, which makes the usual positive noises about the relationship, mentions Russia amassing of forces on Ukraine’s border and an orderly end to the war in Afghanistan. It has a reference, expanded upon in a terse and matter-of-fact joint statement, to past and continuing consultation on the review and strategic alignment.
There is no reference to consultation with the Biden Administration but rather between the respective defence departments. That difference is not lost on those who have been commenting on the gaping disparity now between our new nuclear weapons posture and that of President Biden, who has spoken of a national security imperative and moral responsibility to manage and eliminate the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.
UK officials have been briefing on the review in the US. One, asked whether the removal of the cap had been discussed with the Biden Administration, responded that the Government wanted to report to Parliament first. As our current nuclear posture is more an echo of the Trump Administration’s 2019 posture review than the aspirations of the new President, was prior discussion with the DoD under the previous Administration? An increase in the cap on our nuclear weapons stockpile to more than 260 warheads is a significant reversal from the long-standing position on reducing numbers while maintaining a minimum deterrent force.
Equally concerning to Biden must be that while Russia and the US publicly declare their numbers, we will no longer publish details of our operational nuclear stockpile and deployed warheads and missiles. This is a significant blow to transparency. The justification so far is thin and unconvincing. The review lacks a compelling rationale for raising the warhead cap. There is a brief reference to an
“evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats,”—
a reference to Russia’s new and planned nuclear systems. No explanation is given for how increasing the stockpile will provide a more credible deterrent, improve UK security or impress Moscow, whose nuclear force will continue to dwarf ours.
Now, we reserve the right to threaten nuclear use if a threat from chemical and biological weapons or “emerging technologies” makes it necessary. What does this really mean? This policy shift is not proportionate to the threat and under any circumstances is not credible. Would the UK ever use a nuclear weapon against a chemical, biological, or cyber attack? An expanded use policy for nuclear weapons is directly counter to Biden’s commitment to consult with allies about moving towards a “sole purpose” declaratory policy that the nuclear arsenal is only for deterring or retaliating against nuclear attacks.
Coming weeks after the announcement of the US and Russia agreeing to extend New START and to engage in successor agreement discussions, this flies in the face of this new opportunity to stop the nuclear arms race. When its closest ally moves in a contrary direction, it presents a significant barrier for the new Biden Administration. Will the Minister expand on the joint statement agreed between Ben Wallace and General Austin? When did consultation take place? What was the US response to what is universally now interpreted as an inexplicable abdication of the long-standing leadership role on nuclear disarmament by policy change, counter to Biden’s commitment to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and his commitment to sole purpose?
My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, said what she said about Frank Judd. I associate myself with it and add only that he was an excellent Minister for Defence and Development and in the Foreign Office, and always a genuinely good man.
Foreign friends are relieved that the Government’s puzzling new definition of sovereignty, which has obliged us at such considerable cost to sever economic, commercial and social ties with our European neighbours, apparently does not extend to NATO or United Nations obligations, or to the rules-based international order. The review shows that rules are okay provided they are not European, which is still a bit puzzling but good news. I welcome the linkage of domestic and international aspects of security and the new emphasis on a whole-of-society approach to resilience.
However, I find the hubris grating and mourn the death of British self-deprecation. I recall Lord Carrington’s reaction when Helmut Schmidt, his German Defence Secretary counterpart, told him that what made the UK crucial to European security was not so much 55,000 combat-ready troops forward-based in Germany, but German certainty that we could be trusted; if the balloon went up, the Brits would be there, and there was German certainty that Moscow knew that too. Back then, we did not shout about it. We carried a much bigger stick than we now do, but we spoke much more softly and carried more conviction.
Does President Putin, with his troops massing against the Donbass, pause to ponder how we might act on our 1994 commitment to the Ukraine’s security? I doubt it. Does President Xi, as he contemplates Taiwan, worry about our carrier deployment? I doubt it. A rather small gorilla beating its chest risks looking a little ludicrous. The Carringtons and Heaths, the Callaghans and Healeys—the generation who knew war and understood security—would not have been quite so hubristic. Of course, they would have agreed that it makes sense to subordinate national sovereignty to allied solidarity, and autarchy to mutually agreed rules, but they would have warned that what matters most is to retain a reputation for reliability. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, is right that brutal 50% cuts to bilateral aid hurt us as well as the world’s poorest, and we surely shock the world by passing a law to break international law and tear up a newly minted treaty, gravely damaging global Britain.
One cannot rebuild a reputation by shouting about what one intends. Actions speak louder than words. We must see ourselves as others see us, remember Helmut Schmidt’s tribute, and seek to rebuild trust. The fine words of the review cannot do that for us. Only our actions can.
My Lords, I draw attention to my interests in the register of Members’ interests.
Security, defence, foreign policy and development should always be co-ordinated, but that does not mean that they must all be in one department, nor that the existence of DfID for the last 20 years has compromised the UK’s diplomatic reach. Indeed, I believe that the opposite has been the case. The UK has many strengths and we should play to them. We also have weaknesses and we should address them. That said, it is not clear from the review exactly what the UK’s positioning in the world will be. Talk of maintaining our commitment to and engagement with Europe, while apparently also wanting to increase our influence on the Indo-Pacific region, smacks of a yearning for a past that cannot be recovered.
The UK is a trading nation but our capacity to trade is weak. Our science and technology, much of which is truly world-class, lacks a manufacturing capacity to achieve the export strength that we need. Our success in helping to develop and roll out the Covid vaccines has been achieved through international co-operation, something the Government seem reluctant to acknowledge. Yet co-operation with the EU and the developing world is essential to eliminating the virus and protecting us against future pandemics. At the same time, a poor post-Brexit agreement with the EU has weakened our services base, which has been our strongest suit. The graphic on page 8 of the review is revealing of the blinkered and prejudiced mindset. It states:
“The UK has a seat in every major multilateral organisation”
and lists the 10 that it is referring to, but the EU is not one of them. Clearly, it is no longer an international organisation regarded as major by the UK Government. Relationships with China are crucial and delicate. How much of a stand are we prepared to make on the dismantling of democracy in Hong Kong and the exclusion of Taiwan from international organisations, not least the WHO?
The review presents the UK as footloose global Britain, able to dart in and out wherever our interests require it. Yet the decisions that this Government have taken will keep the world and UK citizens guessing. To have sustained influence requires co-operation, trust, consistency and respect. Looking at the UK from the outside presents a baffling and confusing identity. What cannot be gainsaid is that the Government have raised the defence budget’s share of GNI by 0.2 percentage points and increased our nuclear warheads, while, at the same time, official development assistance has been cut by 0.2 points. The message is clear: the UK is switching its emphasis from soft power to hard power. This is reinforced by the incorporation of DfID into the FCDO, subordinating aid spending to diplomatic leverage.
Prioritising east Africa and Nigeria must also make other African countries wonder where they stand. What does that mean for Ghana, Sierra Leone, the newly reborn Gambia, Malawi or Zambia? The cuts in aid have sent shockwaves through development NGOs and humanitarian charities. UK aid and development partners recognise that the aid budget does not exist for their benefit, but the Government know that the reach of our development programmes cannot be achieved without these partners.
Cuts on this scale, implemented at speed, will be highly damaging and disruptive not only to the development partners but, more importantly, to the beneficiaries. The cuts necessitated by the pandemic downturn, amounting to £2.9 billion, were severe enough, and are only now being felt. To add to those cuts an even more severe reduction will do incalculable harm. There is a need for more official development assistance, not less, if we are to make the world safe from the present and future pandemics, rebuild damaged livelihoods, end absolute poverty and leave no one behind. To achieve that, the UK will need expert partners, whose capacity will be seriously eroded by such savage and, so far, unspecified cuts. Such short-term twists and turns are no way to run a long-term aid strategy. This looks more like a disintegrated review.
My Lords, the document read to me as “how to fight the last war” rather than “how to face up to the future”. I have one or two comments about the soft power aspects in particular.
The Council of Europe, of which I am a member, has been looking at the 100th anniversary of the Geneva conventions. Very recently, the European Court of Human Rights brought in a very interesting judgment which people say has thrown everything into confusion, but I think has clarified it. It said that you cannot apply human rights while a conflict is in progress. It throws us back into looking at how the Geneva conventions will be applied at all, but it is common sense. If you have people shooting at each other in the street, you can hardly run out and say, “Excuse me, item 13 says that you must point that this way”. That is one way in which we will have to reclassify how we look at how we wage war.
Secondly, of course, is the long debate over the aid changes. I think the Government are wrong; they should not have cut the aid. But the aid agencies have had too soft a ride for too long a time. I talked to someone in the aid business about the Oxfam debacle and all they could say was, “Well, Oxfam got found out, you know, they are all up to it.” Instead of cutting back the aid budget, the Government should have got to grips with the way in which it was being used and spent, because that was, and remains, the real problem.
But let us not think of it as aid. We think of it as giving pennies to the poor, but it is not. It is investing in common sense. I am one of the few people in this House who are prepared publicly to say nice things about David Cameron, whom I worked for. David always insisted that the reason for increasing the aid budget was to make the countries we were assisting places where people wanted to live in preference to being refugees and trying to come to live in our country. He had quite a clear view. I remember when the proposal came out to increase the budget. Some asked—these were the words—“Why are you adopting a Labour proposal?” He said, “It is not a Labour proposal; it is a common-sense proposal. It is a proposal to make the countries better places for the people already living there, and it is a very wise investment of money.” The Government have been remiss in not carrying on with that.
Finally, we need to look a bit harder at NATO. For a time, I was vice-chair of the European Parliament’s sub-committee on defence. We discovered that NATO had enormous problems. It could not get its tanks over bridges. If it wanted to cross frontiers within NATO member states, it had to get permission, and it was made quite clear to us that, in some instances, that permission would not be granted. We tried, but what is now needed—HMG could well put some effort into this—is to get NATO operable and into a position where it can actually do something. At the moment, the restrictions on it stop it doing anything.
My Lords, the integrated review, and its accompanying Defence Command Paper and industrial strategy paper, have gone some way to addressing the mistakes made in the awful 2010 defence review and the somewhat less disastrous 2015 strategic defence review. What is particularly to be welcomed is that the threat has been put very much to the fore, and for that much credit should go to the Secretary of State for Defence. We see cyber, artificial intelligence and space being given due and proper attention.
The review lays emphasis on global Britain, and in so doing recognises that forward deployment and persistent engagement need to be essential ingredients of the Armed Forces construct. As part of that, a refreshed maritime strategy is given appropriate prominence. There is a promising forward shipbuilding programme to support this, but in the short to medium term, we will see the frigate force shrink below its already emaciated size. Frigates are the key element in persistent forward presence. Once again, I ask what can be done to speed up the delivery of Type 26 and Type 31 ships currently in build and shortly to be ordered. It is incomprehensible that we will not see the first of the new ships operational until well into the second half of this decade. I hardly need say that any sort of attrition—a word, by the way, that is conspicuous by its absence in the review and is equally relevant to our land and air forces—would be a serious setback. What attention has been given in the review to the matter of attrition in general?
Regarding the review’s concept of forward deployment, it is encouraging to see the strong manifestation of this with the deployment of the carrier strike group to the Indo-Pacific this summer. I hope the Minister will confirm that, among other things, opportunities will be sought to strengthen our alliances out there, such as the Five Power Defence Arrangements, the FPDA; to look for ways to create bonds with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the Quad; and not to shy away from exerting our right to freedom of navigation through the South China Sea. Such things have important relevance to global Britain.
To pick up on the intention set out in the review to increase the ceiling of our overall nuclear stockpile from no more than 180 warheads by the mid-2020s to no more than 260 warheads, this measure seems to have raised alarm in some quarters, but I applaud the Government’s courage and the wisdom of taking it. We profess to having the absolute minimum credible deterrent, but the word “credible” is valid only if the missiles can get to their target. With the potential opposition improving daily their nuclear capabilities, including anti-ballistic missile systems, this is a necessary measure. It does not involve building new warheads, although a replacement programme in due course is under consideration. I remind those who say that this sets a bad example that our good example of reductions in nuclear firepower over the past couple of decades has absolutely not been followed by any nuclear weapons state which may be unfriendly. In fact, it is quite the contrary: they have all significantly increased their nuclear arsenals and capabilities.
My Lords, in many ways the integrated review acknowledges with greater force than we have seen before from a UK Government the arguments that the Green Party has made for decades—that security can be achieved only in a stable environment and that the climate emergency and nature crisis are a threat to all our futures. That is driven home today with the HadCRUT5 global temperature series showing that the average global temperature for 2020 was 1.3 degrees—plus or minus 0.1 degrees—above preindustrial levels.
Much of the overarching rhetoric of the integrated review could have been written by the intellectual thought leaders in this area: the Rethinking Security network. But, as many noble Lords have pointed out, the text fails to acknowledge or make difficult choices. It fails to meet its ambition to set a path for the next 10 years.
I will briefly pick up three elements the Minister highlighted in his introduction. First, on science and technology, the review talks about Britain being a world leader and innovator—something that the Government frequently major on—but in such a narrow range of fields. The Minister referred to artificial intelligence and renewables, and I cannot disagree with the last one. But ask a farmer, crucial to food security, or an ecologist, crucial to the nature-based solutions to the climate emergency that the Government like to talk about, what science they need, and it is not those. Protecting our soils, using agroecological systems for food production, managing our freshwaters and seas and understanding the complexity of life on earth are absolutely fundamental to security. There are an estimated 1.7 million undiscovered types of viruses in vertebrates. We have brilliant experts in this and many other fields; let us celebrate and fund them—not just to treat the diseases after they have arisen but to understand the underlying systems.
Secondly, the Minister spoke in an unqualified way about trade delivering jobs and prosperity. I fundamentally question that assertion. We have come to the end of a period of a massive explosion in global trade and are in an insecure, poverty-stricken and environmentally trashed world. The harm done by some trade is obvious. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute tells us that sales of arms and military services by the largest 25 companies totalled $361 billion in 2019. Of course, included in that are our sales to Saudi Arabia, a regime with one of the worst human rights records on this planet and, of course, a key proponent in the dreadful war destroying Yemen.
Thirdly, I come to aid. I am really quite astonished that the Minister chose to highlight the Government’s prioritising of girls’ education on the day that Save The Children concludes that spending on education for girls will be reduced by 25% in 2021 compared to 2019-20. Perhaps the Minister can confirm whether that is correct. It is a long-time Green Party policy to lift that aid figure to 1%—clearly the direction of greater security.
Finally, I come to the astonishing and deeply disturbing changes in nuclear doctrine and practice. I associate myself particularly with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, and with others who questioned this. Some observers have pointed out that lifting a cap is not lifting numbers. If this is just an empty gesture, a rhetorical firebrand playing tough to a domestic audience in the culture war, then it is a truly dangerous and immoral one. If it is a real plan to increase the number of these hideous weapons of mass destruction, it is also deeply dangerous and immoral, as is the widening of the doctrine for their use.
This review is glancing in a new direction for security, and yet it firmly continues to wade forward through the swamp of inequality, militarism and environmental destruction.
My Lords, I should note my entries in the register of interests. I would also like to note that this integrated review is in many ways a development of the work of British Governments over nearly 20 years, in trying to bring together defence, diplomacy and development policy, strategy and implementation. It was begun under the last Labour Government, under both Prime Ministers, who not only tried to improve the way in which the British Government worked in relation to the integration of policy within the UK but spoke out for that internationally as well. It was developed under the Cameron Administration, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Hague, and Andrew Mitchell, as Secretary of State for DfID, and it is welcome that we have another integrated review to take this forward. The disappointment is in the content, not in the concept.
While I welcomed this review after the election in 2019, at that time I was also welcoming the fact that the new Government were committed to 0.7% of GNI on official development assistance. While one promise has been broken, and potentially a law has been broken, in the other case, this review has failed to match the high ambitions that were perhaps initially set for it.
There can be no doubt that in any conflict situation around the world where our security interests are of concern, an integrated approach to policy is essential in securing investment in development with good, strong diplomacy supporting human rights, democracy and the values that we put forward as a country, alongside the need for military power, or at least the potential for military intervention. Whether we are in the Sahel or south-east Asia—in Myanmar at the moment—or anywhere else in the world, the integration of these three approaches is absolutely critical. There can also be no doubt that, in all these situations, conflict and instability is caused by poverty, poor governance and a lack of opportunity. The prevention of conflict and of security threats, has, at its core, dealing with those issues of poverty, lack of opportunity and poor democracy and human rights. It is simply not possible to bomb grievances, ideas and dreams out of people’s heads. We have to deal with the root causes of conflict and instability, which is why defence, diplomacy and development have to go hand in hand.
If Frank Judd, the late Lord Judd, had been with us today, he would have said that the key word here is not “integrated” but “interdependence”. The interdependence of our world today is seen more clearly in 2020 than perhaps ever before, in a pandemic that began with a virus, almost certainly in China, but ended up closing schools in every continent in the world, shutting down trade routes and travel and having an impact far beyond its origins. That interdependence surely leads us to think again, and I hope to think again about these cuts to official development assistance, where we have invested, as a country, in democratic institutions, human rights and better governance, as well as tackling the impact of extreme poverty and lack of opportunity.
The question in 2021 and beyond, and for generations that follow us, will be to look back and say: were the rich, powerful countries of the world willing to step up and bring the global community together after this pandemic, or were we willing to let it fall apart? On the key issue of development, alongside diplomacy and defence—not two and a half but all three together—this review falls short.
My Lords, I too welcome the noble Lord, Lord Godson, to this House. He was once described as one of London’s most influential people. I look forward to his influencing Members of this House to like this country as much as he and I do, both of us being adoptive to this country.
I congratulate the Government on the publication of the integrated review. It is thoughtful and comprehensive. A review drawing together the threads of foreign policy, defence, national security and international development into a coherent whole was long overdue. The review has many original features. Its so-called tilt to the Indo-Pacific region has perhaps attracted the most public attention. We learn from the media that its first manifestation will be the despatch to the region next month of a carrier strike group, led by HMS “Queen Elizabeth”. Can the Minister confirm that the strike group will be deployed to the South China Sea to underline our attachment to the law of the sea and international freedom of navigation?
It is also reported that, en route to the Far East, a Royal Navy destroyer and frigate from the strike group will stop off in the Black Sea to offer support to the Government and people of Ukraine, who are yet again being placed under unacceptable pressure by the Russian Government, who have massed over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s eastern frontier. As the Prime Minister’s first trade envoy to Ukraine—I hereby declare my interest—I warmly welcome our Government’s wholehearted support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. We are playing a crucial role in helping Ukraine rebuild its infrastructure and defence capability. Only three days ago, our two countries signed an agreement to expand Operation Orbital, which provides for co-operation between our Armed Forces. It is, I hope the House will agree, a clear example of the UK putting its money where its mouth is—in this case, practical action to buttress democracy and national sovereignty in a friendly state.
Given that the integrated review named Russia as
“the most acute threat to our security”,
I suggest to the Minister that the dangerous situation on Ukraine’s eastern border urgently demands a twin-track approach to deter aggression—namely, not only a naval acte de présence in the Black Sea, but a determined British diplomatic initiative to help our French and German friends revive the Minsk II protocol, which is today all but dead.
My Lords, the review we are debating today is an impressive and perceptive analysis of the threats, challenges and opportunities that this country faces as it charts its way in a new chapter of its history, following our departure from the European Union, so it should be welcomed. There are some blemishes, of course, including the silliness of the reluctance to mention the European Union except in passing. Less estimable, I suggest, is the fact that the cart of key security decisions—the merger of the FCO and DfID, the savage cuts in the overseas aid budget and the detail of defence spending over the next few years—has preceded the horse of the review. Those decisions should surely have been shaped by the review, not have pre-empted it.
One overall impression stands out: Britain can no longer hope to overcome these threats and challenges acting alone. We need allies and partners if we are to prevail. In the period following Brexit and four years of alliance disruption and disregard from President Trump’s White House, that is no small order. That challenge is underlined by last week’s decision by the US to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by September, best characterised tersely by our own Chief of the Defence Staff as
“not a decision we hoped for”.
What should we think about the much-trumpeted tilt towards the Indo-Pacific? Leave aside the fact that the review does not even give geographical definition to that region. Does it begin in east Africa and extend to the western coast of Latin America? Does it include Pakistan, for example? Is it welcome to our closest ally, the US, or would it have preferred us to put more effort into Euro-Atlantic security and into Africa, where it has never been deeply engaged?
It is a pity more was not said about multilateral peacekeeping by the UN and by regional organisations such as the African Union. With the retreat from coalitions of the willing expeditions, such as those to Iraq and Afghanistan, there will inevitably be more demand for peacekeeping if some parts of the world are not to fall into chaos and insecurity. But that sort of peacekeeping needs to be made more effective and, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, we have a responsibility to provide training, mentoring, specialised services, and equipment.
The sections of the review on nuclear weapons policy have been criticised by many others. I suggest that they lack any developed rationale, let alone any justification. Just when the two largest possessors of these weapons have frozen their strategic missile arsenals for another five years, we are going to head off in the opposite direction, thus undermining our capacity to pursue the objective of strategic stability at this year’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. The doctrine of “deliberate ambiguity” as to the numbers of our warheads and the purposes for which they might be used, which has been proudly proclaimed by the Government as a new kind of doctrine, does not strengthen our security at all. If all nuclear weapon possessor states practised that doctrine, would we be less at risk from nuclear war? I rather doubt that.
In conclusion, the review, if not some of its policy prescriptions, is welcome but we will soon see whether there is a gap between rhetoric and reality as it is put into practice. I fear there will be.
My Lords, I will focus my comments on aid and international development. Before I start, I declare my interests as listed in the register. I am a consultant for NDI, the National Democratic Institute, which offers training and support to fledgling democracies.
When it comes to international development, the integrated review confirmed many of aid sector’s fears. By ending the UK’s commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid, the Government are abandoning the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people when they need our support most. In doing so, the Government are not only breaking their own manifesto commitments but making it more difficult for the UK to achieve its foreign policy objectives. This benefits no one.
The review talks of the UK being a force for good in the world, but that simply cannot be reconciled with the decision to slash the aid budget. The cuts will mean a reduction of up to 60% of the support we give to Yemen, one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, and by cutting programmes in Iraq and Syria, where the Foreign Secretary has previously accepted that humanitarian work is essential to the security efforts to counter ISIS, the UK could now be leaving fertile ground for future insurgencies.
As a country, we also have a unique responsibility as host of the crucial COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow this year to lead the way on tackling the climate crisis we face together. As Save the Children said yesterday, on hearing the first details of how the cuts will be imposed, these cuts are
“slashing aid to communities on the front line of that crisis.”
By cutting development programmes we are sending all the wrong signals to our allies and partners. We are undermining our diplomatic efforts—the polar opposite of what the strategic review was intended to achieve. Of course, these historic aid cuts follow the senseless decision of the dissolving of the world-leading Department for International Development. I have still not heard a coherent argument as to why that happened. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, decisions have been made that are shaping the review but which should have followed the review, not be made before it.
The Government’s failure to provide details of the impact that aid cuts will have on country-specific programmes means continued uncertainty for the aid sector and the vital projects that rely on the UK. The UK should focus its efforts on poverty alleviation, meeting the SDGs, and multiplier programmes such as education and nutrition. Above all, the UK needs a coherent approach to sustainable development and a clear vision that reflects the values we hold as a country. While the review offers a fleeting mention of a development strategy to be published at a later date, Ministers have not been able to give any information on when that will appear. Can the Minister confirm when the strategy will be published, and can she also confirm that the FCDO is fully engaging development NGOs in the drafting of the strategy? After all, it is only through meaningful engagement with civil society that government can benefit from those with the best-available knowledge, evidence and expertise on global development.
My Lords, recent thinking and experience points to a growing third part to our defence and security, that which lies between active overseas participation and defensive preparation: the grey zone of hostile acts that fall short of open warfare but which are nevertheless profoundly troublesome and which must be countered in that grey zone.
One aspect of this has been the setting up of the National Cyber Force as an offensive unit. This introduces a new doctrine of offensive actions as well as, and apart from, the traditional role of intelligence gathering in all its methods, from SIGINT to HUMINT. I have raised this topic before, and the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, kindly wrote to me to explain the new arrangement for control of the National Cyber Force. She said that the National Cyber Force commander
“will report to both Defence and GCHQ. The first Commander of the National Cyber Force is currently a civilian employee of GCHQ. They are not being named as, while National Cyber Force is publicly avowed, it is not public facing.”
There seems to be a distinct lack of a clear chain of command in this response. Perhaps that is not so surprising, since the new force is yet to bring together and blend what were clearly distinct areas of responsibility for two different Secretaries of State.
Nevertheless, a committee-type structure to run or oversee live operations, with all their potential hazards, is a recipe for mismanagement and divided, unclear responsibility. That is not satisfactory. While I recognise that we are at the early stages of setting up this new force, I was and still am concerned about the chain of command and responsibilities of the two Secretaries of State involved. It might at first blush be reasonable to assume that the offensive use employed is directly either a defence or a Security Service action. But if it is not already—very soon in cyber strategy terms—such a distinction will become blurred or non-existent.
While the examples quoted by the Government for offensive cyber action are clear-cut, there could, as capabilities mature, be abilities to disrupt national infrastructures, for example. While the possible targets should and must remain secret, the legal, human rights, ethical and political considerations cannot be ignored. Will the Intelligence and Security Committee be given an overwatch role on offensive cyber force operations? There is surely such a role for Parliament, and this should be clear from the outset.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his very helpful introduction. This review is long-awaited and good in parts. I welcome in particular the establishment of the counterterrorism operations centre and the National Cyber Force. The review gives a correct analysis of the threat from both Russia and China. Russia is now massing more than 100,000 troops at the borders of Ukraine for what it calls an exercise. China poses the dilemma of how we strike an appropriate balance between competition and co-operation while being true to our values.
However, my first criticism of the review is that, despite it being overseen by a professional historian—the son of the noble Lord, Lord Bew—it lacks a historical perspective. There is no adequate appraisal of our reduced role since 1945 and our limited economic resources, with a clear need now to prioritise more carefully and see where we can add value. In my judgment, the review excessively reflects the personal views of the Prime Minister, who was unable, both in his introduction to the review in the House of Commons and in his foreword to the review itself, even to mention the words “European Union”, as if it were a four-letter word. His foreword ends with a typical nostalgic flourish, with a paragraph entitled,
“British leadership in the world in 2021”.
The Prime Minister’s attitude contrasts with that of the noble Lord, Lord Hague, with his soft Brexit approach. I noted particularly his article in last week’s Times, where he did not show any visceral hostility, but rather a recognition that, post Brexit, we still need a special relationship with our immediate neighbours. The Prime Minister claims a new independence, but this might, in fact, lead us more and more into the slipstream of the US, as we saw in the timing of our exit from Afghanistan.
We need to look more carefully at our strengths and weaknesses. Until recently, before the controversy over the Northern Irish protocol, we could cite our adherence to the rule of law as one of our key values. Now, as the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, has argued elsewhere, we have lost the high ground in our criticisms of China over Hong Kong. We have a remarkable past, but are no longer in the Premier League, even if we are at the top of the Championship, with legitimate claims to be a soft power superpower.
Before the publication of the review, which was a worthwhile exercise in itself, we had the two changes: the folding of DfID into the FCO and the reduction of overseas aid. Both should have been seen at the same time as the review.
Other reflections include the tilt to the Indo-Pacific—a possible echo of east of Suez. Will it be welcome to the US, or would it prefer us to be closer to the northern Atlantic? A recent poll from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies showed that only 3.7% of respondents saw the UK as their preferred strategic partner after the US. Will closer links to the Indo-Pacific region compensate for the loss of influence in Europe?
Some of our values, of course, are in the field of soft power, yet there are contradictions, such as the shabby way in which VSO has been treated. We used to pride ourselves on being a bridge between the US and the European Union, and being a gateway for foreign investment into the European Union—no longer. It is claimed that we have lost an empire and are searching for a role. On the basis of this review, we have left the European Union and are still searching for a role.
My Lords, when, in 1992, Francis Fukuyama heralded the post-Cold War ascendency of western liberal democracy as “the end of history”, he was somewhat premature. Global democracy has looked pretty rocky of late, with the latest example being the coup in Myanmar. The western system of democracy is under attack and being undermined, as the integrated review suggests. A large number of millennials in the US, Europe and the UK are questioning the legitimacy of democracy, just as large numbers of Hong Kongers have fought for it. Around half or slightly less of the world’s population live in a democracy. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s measure of democracy, in 2016 the US was demoted from a full democracy to a flawed democracy.
The integrated review is part of our fightback. The rise of China does not mean the inevitable decline of the West and our values. I had the privilege of presenting the European Parliamentary Labour Party’s submission to the 1998 strategic defence review by the then Defence Secretary, now the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, whom we heard earlier. The current integrated review claims to be the most significant foreign policy and security review since then.
I do not intend to repeat all the points well made by many noble and gallant Lords and experts in the field today. However, I agree that the integrated review lacks focus and a sense of prioritisation. It is, in a sense, too broad and too ambitious. Crucially, it is not at all apparent, even given the boost in defence expenditure, that this will meet the review’s stated aims, some of which appear contradictory.
I welcome the Indo-Pacific tilt as a case in point, as a recognition of the region’s growing economic and geopolitical importance. However, it is not clear how much resource will be allocated to the tilt to make it meaningful. The Indo-Pacific tilt also has implications for NATO, which the review says will remain the foundation of our collective security. Should this not result in NATO itself adapting to the new geopolitical reality of developments in the Indo-Pacific? HMS “Queen Elizabeth” will make its first deployment to the region, and that should be an opportunity for the UK to show its friends and allies in the region, including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand, that we are committed to free navigation in international waters and stand with them against any threats of aggression.
I must say something about cuts to the Army. Cyber and AI are very important, but they do not enable us to retake Port Stanley on the Falklands. For some operations you still need quite a few boots on the ground. The tooth-to-tail ratio, or combat-spear element, has been in decline since the First World War. That might result in better logistics, support and care, but the reality is that only about 20% to 25% of our troops do the fighting. With a force of 72,500, that leaves at best 18,000 Armed Forces personnel to do the actual front-line fighting on the ground. That is not enough to take and hold a small town.
Finally, the review overstates Russia’s capabilities and underestimates those of China. It has been a major geostrategic error to encourage Moscow and Beijing to seek an ever-closer union. On Russia, the immediate emphasis now should be on all parties implementing the Minsk agreements and standing down their forces on the borders, which I believe, in Russia’s case, has already begun.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on the publication of the integrated review and on the repositioning of Britain, as we begin this next chapter in our nation’s history.
I applaud our commitment to facing up to the changing world in which we find ourselves and the determination to emerge match fit to face a more competitive world—but one in which we hold on to our own values of democracy and our way of life, freedom of speech and our commitment to the rule of law and voluntary exchange. I also applaud our commitment that these remain the best model for the social and economic advancement of humankind.
However, the review rightly notes that China’s growing international stature is by far the most significant geopolitical factor in the world today, with major implications for British values and interests and for the structure and shape of the international order. However, we appear to adopt two independently competing positions in our response to China. First, we declare China to be
“the biggest state-based threat to the UK’s economic security.”
However, secondly, we commit to “deeper trade links” and “more Chinese investment” in the UK.
As we witness China’s behaviour in Hong Kong and against the Uighurs, as we observe the breaking of WTO protocols in ongoing trade wars with our closest allies and as we uncover the threat to our intellectual property, we have to ask whether this is a sustainable strategy. If this is a holding strategy, at what point do the Government believe that this balancing act needs to come to an end, and what steps are the Government taking to ensure that we are match fit and not vulnerable if the time comes to change our position? If this is a long-term strategy, what action are the Government taking to protect the UK from the “biggest state-based threat” to our economic security?
I also draw attention to the review’s approach towards the continent of Africa. The review says,
“We will be active in Africa”.
Later, it says:
“We will work in partnership with South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana”.
However, there is then very little more in the review. Africa, as a continent, has huge potential: prosperity in Africa is at its highest ever level, the world’s ten fastest-growing cities are in Africa, and African cities make up 40 of the top 50. Growing these markets will be essential for the development of global economic openness and security initiatives in the region. Could my noble friend the Minister outline our strategy for the development of trade relationships and investment, where appropriate, in Africa?
My final comment is on the development element of the review. I welcome the commitment to supporting emerging nations to become self-sufficient through trade and economic growth, but I ask the Minister to consider a two-fold strategy. Our work on How Nations Succeed found that the most successful examples of development came in nations that took responsibility for driving their own transformation. This presents a raft of opportunities for the UK to devise a new approach to cultivating and supporting the development of prosperity in emerging nations as a new development strategy, which would then allow us to focus our traditional aid budget on crisis response, which is where the British people are so extraordinarily generous in responding.
There is much in this review that is outstanding, but I ask the Minister to consider the circumstances in which we would come off the fence in relation to China, the opportunities that exist for mutual relationships with the nations of the African continent, and a new approach to supporting the long-term development of nations.
My Lords, the review rightly identifies that the risks of unsustainable population growth, pandemics, global warming and unconstrained migration are a backdrop to all the decisions that we are making. Taken in conjunction with harnessing rapidly changing technological advances, such as AI, quantum computing, the use of space, hypersonic missiles, robotics and unmanned combat vehicles, warfare is clearly changing.
The Defence Secretary is right in preparing for future wars, not past battles—but he is being economical with the truth when he calls this the biggest defence investment since the end of the Cold War. Notwithstanding the much-welcomed four-year uplift to defence spending, announced last November, the key driver of this review has been cost. Talk of
“giving us deployable, capable forces, equipped with next-generation capabilities”
is not able to disguise a further reduction in our nation’s overall military capability. Clearly, there needs to be investment in technology—space, cyber et cetera, as I mentioned—but this puts ever more pressure on an already overstretched budget. The plan as presented has a great deal of jam tomorrow but pain today. Should there be conflict in the short term—when you look around the world, you see that there might well be one—we would have to fight with what we have got.
One of the most striking aspects of the integrated review, mentioned by a number of speakers, was the change to UK’s nuclear posture. There are a number of sensible possible rationales for some of the changes but, without doubt, the increase in future holdings of warheads has huge a diplomatic downside. These changes need to be much more clearly explained. Under Putin’s direction, Russia has spent billions modernising its nuclear forces, but of more concern is its development of new, more devastating, nuclear delivery systems—some of them are quite horrifying—ditto China. This nuclear dimension is of greater concern in view of the collapse of international agreements to limit numbers of warheads, types of delivery systems and the complex confidence-building measures that used to be in place to avoid the risks of war by miscalculation. Again, this needs to be resolved and addressed.
The review quite rightly reinforces the commitment to, and importance of, the NATO alliance for UK and European security. France’s President Macron is looking forward to an entirely new transatlantic “security architecture” for the 21st century: his vision is an all-European defensive collective that is armed up and can act independently and ahead of, in his words, a brain-dead NATO. The idea is delusional and highly damaging both to NATO and the security of Europe. President Biden has made sweeping declarations that Europe and the United States must again “trust in one another”, but President Macron’s agenda seems to cross his bows, and our nation needs to be wary of being drawn into this European army defence quagmire.
I am delighted that the Government have recognised the importance of sovereign capability in procurement and its importance for national resilience and indeed the economy. The decision to base our defence and security on a maritime strategy is welcomed and absolutely the right thing to do. As you can imagine, it was music to my ears to hear the Prime Minister say:
“If there is one policy that strengthens the UK in every possible sense, it is building more ships for the Royal Navy”.—[Official Report, Commons, 19/11/20; col. 488.]
A highly capable and resilient globally mobile military will help to prevent a major world war far better than a heavy division deployed on to the continent.
However, one has to face the stark reality that our already embarrassingly small frigate force, as mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, is going to shrink still further over the short to medium term. When will the next five Type 26 frigates be ordered—we have been waiting for ages for them to be ordered—and are we speeding up the delivery programme? The present programme is glacially slow and dramatically adding to the cost.
I refer the House to my interests, as laid out in the register, and congratulate my noble friend Lord Godson—he is my friend—on his thoughtful maiden speech. I associate myself with the tributes to Frank Judd. We sat together on the Justice Committee; I am deaf in one ear and he was deaf in both; that is probably why we got on so well. I enjoyed sharing a birthday with him. May his memory be for a blessing.
On page 63, the very welcome review states:
“We will not hesitate to stand up for our values and our interests where they are threatened, or when China acts in breach of existing agreements.”
Before the ink has had time to dry on page 63, our resolve is being tested: when colleagues in this House and the other place are placed on a sanctions list by China, our values and interests are indeed being threatened. I would be very interested to learn from my noble friend the Minister what “not hesitating to stand up for our values” means in practical terms. The Chinese Communist Party’s genocidal policies towards their own citizens—the Uighurs in Xinjiang—are appalling, and, as I have stated over and over again, wringing our hands helps no one, least of all those suffering day after day.
While on the subject of wringing our hands, on 7 December, I spoke to the genocide amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, raising the matter of the five alleged Rwandan genocide perpetrators living freely in Britain. Once again, I call on the Minister to ensure that this matter is dealt with before CHOGM in Rwanda in June. Could the Minister explain the delay? Rwanda is proud to host CHOGM and values its relations with the UK, but the report states:
“We will partner with the African Union on climate and biodiversity, global health security, free trade, crisis management, conflict prevention and mediation, the Women, Peace and Security agenda, and promoting good governance and human rights.”
This is a fine list, but if we talk about good governance and human rights, we should lead by example.
I am, however, sure that my noble friend the Minister will be hearing from the co-chairman of the newly established all-party war crimes group, led by the noble Lord, Lord Mendelsohn, and the right honourable Andrew Mitchell MP, which was set up specifically to remove this stain on Rwanda-UK relations.
The review rightly confirms that our interests and values are closely aligned, talking of
“a world in which democratic societies flourish and fundamental human rights are protected”.
In the light of these fine words, will my noble friend the Minister confirm that the UK will not attend Durban IV? As the right honourable Member for Chipping Barnet, Theresa Villiers, said in the other place, it is the anniversary of the 2001 UN conference against racism, which degenerated into hatred, anti-Semitism and disproportionate criticism of Israel.
The review rightly argues that poor governance and disorder are likely to increase the space for terrorists and extremist groups to operate in the Middle East. The report, however, says little about the intentional and malign efforts of the Iranian Government to sow disorder, enrich uranium, destabilise Governments and sponsor extremists and terrorists throughout the region. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ terrorist proxy Hezbollah continues to hold the people of Lebanon hostage as their country faces economic collapse. The IRGC is menacing the Kingdom of Bahrain through arms exports to pro-Iranian militias and is prolonging the tragic war in Yemen through support for the Houthi rebels, who are directly attacking Saudi Arabia.
Does my noble friend the Minister agree with me, therefore, that the UK has an opportunity to play a significant role: to take a lead and bring about a more resilient Middle East by proscribing and therefore marginalising the Iranian revolutionary guard corps?
My Lords, parts of this integrated review read more like a party manifesto than a closely argued analysis of threats and capabilities. We learn a lot about the Prime Minister’s ambitious visions for the future but much less about how they are to be achieved.
Some sections invite satirical comment. Page 64 tells us:
“The UK is the nearest neighbour to the Arctic region.”
That will surprise the Governments of Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Canada and Russia—unless Boris Johnson is planning to imitate Donald Trump by making a takeover bid for Greenland.
Like others, I was struck by the many contradictions and inconsistencies in the document. It proclaims that Britain is a “soft power superpower” which benefits from the global reputation of the BBC, our world-class universities and the quality of our cultural life. It also underlines and emphasises the importance of integrating domestic and external policies. In domestic politics, however, Ministers are hostile to the BBC and dismiss and condemn university teachers, artists and writers as the core of the despised metropolitan liberal elite. Observers in other countries notice these attacks on such national assets, even if the Prime Minister’s vision is too short-sighted to recognise them.
There is a fundamental contradiction between the assertion of sovereignty as a core value and the representation of the UK as a champion of multilateralism, global order, human rights and international law. The Chinese are right to say that criticism of their treatment of the Uighurs is an invasion of their sovereignty. We defend global values against Chinese sovereignty. The British Empire could both assert its full sovereignty and impose its views on others, but we no longer have an empire and we cannot pretend to be world-leading in all the fields that the Prime Minister fondly imagines that we can. He should talk more about partnership and less about leadership.
The identification of Russia as the most direct threat to British security is undermined by the priority given to the Indo-Pacific. Almost the only reference to the European Union—as has been remarked—states that the UK will
“find new ways of working with it on shared challenges”
but it does not tell us what those new ways might be. Later, it says:
“We will also look for ways to work more closely with European partners, including France and Germany.”
Ministers should not have to look very far: the UK has had a bilateral defence partnership with France since 1998, although Conservative Ministers have done their best not to tell Parliament about it since 2010. Indeed, one Defence Secretary told me directly that he accepted close co-operation with France provided that Parliament knew as little about it as possible.
The claim that the UK will become the European power with the strongest presence in the Indo-Pacific is also an exaggeration: the French are there already with territories, citizens, armed forces and diplomats. In winding up, therefore, will the Minister commit the Government to informing Parliament about the current state of the Franco-British defence partnership and plans for its future development? A review that devotes so much more attention to relations with India than with our nearest continental neighbour—Europe’s other military and global power—is not an entirely serious document.
My Lords, the integrated review is both comprehensive and strategic in its foreign policy intentions. The emphasis on recognising the strengths of our allies, and modestly aiming to lead where the UK is best placed to do so, is welcome.
That said, however, there are many potential contradictions and many issues to resolve before the strategy can begin to be implemented and we can begin to know what global Britain will actually look like in years to come. There are difficult issues, not least of which is the fact that we should perhaps be a little careful of being welcomed with open arms by all those nations with which we now seek much closer relations.
The Indo-Pacific pivot is predominantly about economic and security aspects. We all know, however, that democratic nations prosper better than autocratic ones in the longer term, so if economic growth is to be achieved in the Indo-Pacific region it has to be under- pinned by good governance, adherence to the rule of law and common international standards.
What might be the threats to these liberal democratic values, and how might they be limited? Clearly China and its foreign policies and actions represent a major challenge within the Indo-Pacific area. The PRC’s tactics for gaining influence are many and varied, including the belt and road initiative—seen at its most aggressive in the purchase of the Sri Lankan Hambantota deep-harbour seaport, now owned by the PRC—illegal actions in Hong Kong and Taiwan and military threats in the South China Sea.
However, there is as yet no coherent democratic alternative to combat these aggressive developments, and other nations in the region, such as Laos and North Korea, do not even begin to nod towards democratic norms. The UK will need to encourage and establish—urgently, I think—new forums for co-operation, the opportunities for which may well arise during the UK’s leadership of the G7 and the COP 26 meetings this year. A collective of south and east Asian countries, the US, the UK and other European states should agree on measures to strengthen sustainable rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific area, and, in the very near future, provide details of any plans for such informal or formal forums and with which allies they are to be formed.
Meanwhile, the UK should insist that the democratic nations in the region continue to demonstrate their own democratic credentials, such as press freedom, protection of minorities and upholding civil liberties, and the UK should itself closely follow a dual approach, involving equal measures of cautious collaboration with, and severe criticism of, the PRC.